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2016 Superprestigio Entry Lists: Champions From Around The World Face Off In The Dirt

The final line up for Saturday night's Superprestigio indoor dirt track event, to be held at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, has been announced. As always, the big names at the event are reigning MotoGP champion Marc Marquez and former AMA Flat Track champion Brad Baker, with the event likely to see another run off in the Superfinal between the two.

As always, the field is divided into two classes: the Superprestigio class and the Open class. The Superprestigio class features stars from the world of road racing, including the Marquez brothers Marc and Alex, Jorge Martin, Fabio Di Giannantonio, Nico Terol, Toni Elias, with the big surprise being former World Superbike racer Ruben Xaus coming out of retirement to race on a Pursang, a revival of the classic bike from the 1960s and 1970s in flat track form. 

The Open class features starts of various off-road disciplines. Brad Baker is the main attraction, who was due to be joined by fellow AMA champion Jared Mees, until Mees suffered an injury. There are stars from the booming European dirt track scene, including Ferran Cardus, Ollie Brindley, Gerard Bailo and Alan Birtwistle, Speedway star Fredrik Lindgren, Supermotor champions Thomas Chareyre and Sylvain Bidart and more.

The event kicks off at 6pm CET, with the Superfinal being run at 9:10pm, and is due to be shown live on TV in 60 countries. US fans can watch on Fanschoice TV, with the event also being streamed live on Youtube. The full list of broadcasters is available on the DTX Barcelona website.

For an excellent preview of the event, see WorldSBK commentator and Paddock Pass Podcast contributor Steve English' look ahead over on the Asphalt & Rubber website. The full timetable of events is on the DTX Barcelona website.

Superprestigio class

  No Rider Nation Bike
1 1 Kyle Smith GBR Honda
2 2 Jesko Raffin SUI Yamaha
3 8 Jorge Martin ESP Honda
4 11 Vincent Philippe FRA Suzuki
5 12 Xavi Forés ESP Suzuki
6 15 Dani Ribalta ESP Honda
7 18 Nico Terol ESP Suzuki
8 19 Xavier Simeon BEL Suzuki
9 21 Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA Honda
10 23 Marcel Schrotter GER Suzuki
11 24 Toni Elias ESP Suzuki
12 29 Raul Fernandez ESP Husqvarna
13 31 Carmelo Morales ESP Yamaha
14 36 Joan Mir ESP Honda
15 42 Marcos Ramirez ESP Honda
16 60 Julian Simon ESP Yamaha
17 73 Alex Marquez ESP Honda
18 75 Albert Arenas ESP KTM
19 81 Jordi Torres ESP Honda
20 88 Ricky Cardus ESP Suzuki
21 93 Marc Marquez ESP Honda
22 97 Xavi Vierge ESP Tech3
23 111 Ruben Xaus AND Pursang

Open class

  No Rider Nation Bike
1 4 Thomas Chareyre FRA TM
2 6 Brad Baker USA Honda
3 10 Francesco Cecchini ITA TM
4 17 Gerard Bailo ESP Suzuki
5 20 Toby Hales GBR Husqvarna
6 30 Alan Birtwistle GBR Honda
7 34 Jordi Casas ESP Honda
8 38 George Pickering GBR KTM
9 48 Emanuele Marzotto ITA Yamaha
10 64 Sylvain Bidart FRA Honda
11 66 Fredrik Lindgren SWE Honda
12 70 Masatoshi Ohmori JAP Suzuki
13 72 Genis Gelada ESP Honda
14 77 Ferran Cardus ESP Suzuki
15 79 Josep Piedra ESP Husqvarna
16 87 Oriol Mena ESP Honda
17 121 Joan Noguera ESP Yamaha
18 124 Oliver Brindley GBR Kawasaki
19 179 Guillermo Cano ESP Honda
20 181 Gianni Borgiotti ITA Suzuki
21 213 Jaume Gaya ESP Honda
22 215 Ferran Sastre ESP Kawasaki
23 971 Tom Edwards AUS Suzuki

 

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Barcelona Circuit Modifies MotoGP Layout, Moves F1 Chicane

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, home to the Barcelona round of MotoGP, has agreed a new track layout to be used for MotoGP from now on. After consultation with the FIM and the FIA, the circuit has settled upon a slightly revised version of the F1 layout used during the race at Barcelona this year, with the chicane at the (new) Turn 14 and Turn 15 having been moved several meters closer to the (new) Turn 13, providing more run off at the chicane.

The new layout confirms the use of the F1 layout after Turn 9, the right hander leading on to the back straight. The old layout of La Caixa, the long left hander of Turn 10, is to be replaced by the much sharper left of Turn 10, followed by a shallow flick of Turn 11. After the long right hander (now Turn 12 instead of Turn 11 on the classic MotoGP layout), the tighter entrance to Turn 13 follows, still following the layout used by F1. 

From Turn 13, the F1 and new MotoGP layouts differ, with Turn 14 moved closer to Turn 13, to allow more space at the side of Turn 14, and more runoff into the chicane. After the exit of Turn 15, the bikes head back to the glorious final corner and back on to the straight. The changes are illustrated in the image shared on Twitter by Movistar MotoGP journalist Izaskun Ruiz:

The changes have come in the wake of the tragic death of Luis Salom at the circuit during Moto2 practice on the weekend of the Barcelona round of MotoGP. Salom lost control of his Kalex exiting the old Turn 11 and slid across a tarmac section at Turn 12, hitting his own bike first, and then the barrier. There was neither gravel nor air fence at that point, because it was a highly unusual place for a rider to crash.

For the race weekend, the layout was changed to use the standard F1 layout, but the chicane at Turn 14 and Turn 15 was felt to be too close to the wall on the inside of Turn 14, and to not have enough runoff at Turn 15. That was solved temporarily by painting a line on the track to narrow the entry and slow the bikes down. 

The new layout is a more permanent fix to the problems at the circuit. The shorter run up to Turn 14 means the issues with runoff no longer exist. The earlier exit from Turn 15 should also make the final corner a little faster, and give back some of the speed along the straight. 

The change does mean a permanent end to two of the great corners in motorcycle racing. The old Turn 10, La Caixa, was a long, medium speed left hander with passing opportunities both on entry and in mid corner. The new Turn 10 features much harder braking, offering a passing opportunity on the brakes, but there is little chance to fight back on corner exit. The old corner was dropped because the turn was running out of runoff. Bikes that crashed there were starting to reach the barrier, and despite the air fence at the corner, this was a matter of concern for the Safety Commission and Race Direction. The new corner creates a lot more runoff.

The greatest loss is Turn 12, which was another fast right hander, the kind of corner for which the Barcelona circuit is famous. Though the lack of gravel and air fence were major contributors to Luis Salom's death, the main problem is that the grandstands are too close to the edge of the track at that point. The physical geography of the circuit makes alterations there very difficult, and very expensive. There is no real room to push the grandstands back, as there is an interior road behind it, set on a downhill slope. The only solution would be a raised grandstand in the style of Assen's GT grandstand, but that is a very expensive solution, one for which the circuit lacks the funds in the short term. 

New Grandstands At Assen, And The Economic Impact Of A MotoGP Race

"If it wasn't for the Dutch TT race, I would have to close my business." Those were the words of the taxi driver who took me from Assen train station to the circuit, for a presentation on the plans for major upgrades to their spectator facilities over the next three years and beyond.

It offered an insight into the importance of the MotoGP race at Assen, and by extension, the importance of circuits and MotoGP events around the world. My taxi driver explained that over the week surrounding the Assen race, he was kept so busy that the money he made during that period was the difference between ending the year with a profit and the ability to invest in the future of the business, or just about breaking even.

Chatting to an official of the provincial government, who had grown up in the city and worked in bars there during his college years, he confirmed that experience. The bars back then were so busy during the race weekend that it was the difference between survival and failure. The same is true for many businesses and hotels around the region, as anyone who has ever tried to book accommodation in the weeks before the race can attest.

The economics of racing

The economic impact of a MotoGP race is huge. A 2012 research paper by Maria Luisa Martí Selva and Rosa Puertas Medina, published in the Spanish Estudios de Economia Applicada, calculated the economic benefit of the final MotoGP round of 2010 at Valencia. The 80,774 fans who officially attended the race (about 30,000 less than attended this year's race) paid just over €5 million in tickets, and spent nearly €14,5 million in the region on accommodation, food, transport, entertainment, and merchandising. Over €8 million of that went on accommodation, food, and entertainment.

The Valencia race alone generates 0.24% of the GDP of the Valencia Autonomous Community, a region which contains some of the most popular tourist destinations in Eastern Spain. That explains why so many regions are prepared to invest in circuits, and in many cases, financially subsidize the sanctioning fee for the event.

The Dutch TT at Assen does not receive direct subsidy for the race, the circuit pays the sanctioning fee entirely out of its own pocket. But, circuit president Arjan Bos told us, they had reached agreement with the Province of Drenthe (which is home to the circuit) to invest in upgrading the spectator facilities at the circuit. In the period through 2021, facilities are to be improved around the track, with new grandstands being built, more catering options added, entertainment areas created, and roads inside the car parking areas and track paved. All of the changes will benefit spectators, with the track remaining unchanged.

Improving Turn 1

The operation is to take place in two stages. The first phase, already started and due to last until 2019, will see the grandstands at the Haarbocht (Turn 1), Stekkenwal (Turn 8), De Bult (Turn 9), and Winterdijk (the section between the Ramshoek and final GT Chicane) replaced, as well as paving interior roads and creating entertainment areas. The total cost of the first phase is €8 million, with the Province of Drenthe contributing half of that.

The first and most significant upgrade will be the new grandstand being built at the Haarbocht. Currently, the seating there consists of plastic bucket seats on an earth bank. The new grandstand will have approximately the same capacity, of 9700 spectators. But the seating will be more comfortable and more spacious, and raised up higher on a steel and concrete custom-made grandstand. Lifts and stairs will provide access to the grandstand, and there will be catering spaces underneath it, serving both at the front and the rear, so fans can buy food and drinks while bikes are on track without missing out on the action.

The good news for fans is that despite the new grandstand being a major upgrade in terms of comfort, prices for seats there will not be raised to cover the costs. "This is all about customer loyalty,"circuit director Peter Oosterbaan told me. "I want to make sure that the fans have such a great day out that they will want to come back again the following year. I have a waiting list for the main grandstands and the GT grandstand. I want a waiting list for this grandstand too," he said.

Improving the view

The Haarbocht grandstand will not be covered, but the top deck will house a special VIP area, where companies can entertain guests. The top deck offers a fantastic view, as I experienced when handed a VR headset provided by LG Architects, the firm who are building the grandstand. From the top deck, fans can see all of Assen's North Loop, from the front straight, around the Haarbocht to the Strubben, and out onto the Veenslang. Fans sitting in the grandstand will have a similar view, with more visible the higher up they sit.

The increased height of the grandstand will also help reduce noise from the circuit. The architects have modeled the effect of the grandstand on noise, and because the new grandstand is taller, more noise is directed upwards, rather than north towards residential estates near Assen. The reduction is small, of course, but with noise around circuits such a sensitive subject, even small reductions are a welcome effect.

Work on the grandstand had already started when I visited on 6th December, and the aim is to have the grandstand finished by the start of June, in time for the MotoGP race on 25th June. Fans attending the WorldSBK round on 30th April are likely to have to wait another year.

Phase 2

Once the Haarbocht grandstand is finished, work will start on the next grandstands, at Winterdijk, De Bult, and Stekkenwal. These projects will take place in 2018 and 2019, but the design and planning work has not yet started. That will commence some time in 2017, with designs being based on the Haarbocht.

Another part of the project is the creation of entertainment areas behind the grandstands. The idea is to give fans something extra to do when the riders are not on track. There are already a few sections like that at Assen, but this is to be expanded and greatly improved. This, along with all of the other changes, is aimed at improving the visitor experience at the track.

Traditionalists may fear that all these changes will detract from the traditional character of the circuit. Assen's grass banks are a fundamental part of the experience, and a great place to view the action from. Circuit director Peter Oosterbaan insisted they won't be removed. "I always used to sit on the grass banks when I came as a fan many years ago," he told me. They are part of the history of Assen, and will remain so.

All of these changes were only made possible due to the long-term commitment which the Assen circuit has from Dorna. At this year's MotoGP race, Dorna and the TT Circuit announced an extension of the contract through 2026. The importance of the race cannot be overstated. "The board always have one primary objective," circuit president Arjan Bos told us, "to keep the MotoGP race in Assen." But the event is just as important for Dorna, as it is the circuit to have appeared uninterrupted on the calendar since the start of the championship in 1949. "They tell us that for the sake of history, this Grand Prix can never disappear from the calendar."

Below are a selection of design sketches of the new grandstand, from the architects.

Haarbocht grandstand, front view
Haarbocht grandstand, front view

Haarbocht grandstand, view from the stands
Haarbocht grandstand, view from the stands

Haarbocht grandstands, looking north
Haarbocht grandstands, looking north

Haarbocht grandstand, rear view
Haarbocht grandstand, rear view

Haarbocht grandstand, next to the main grandstand
Haarbocht grandstand, next to the main grandstand


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4th Edition Of Barcelona Superprestigio To Take Place On 17th December

The Barcelona Superprestigio has proven to be a popular staple of the winter break. The indoor flat track race, which takes place at the Palau Sant Jordi, is returning for its fourth edition on 17th December. Once again, the stars of the MotoGP, World Superbikes and Endurance will take on the cream of dirt track and off-road disciplines. Former winners Marc Marquez and Brad Baker face off for the fourth time.

The event follows the formula which has been so successful in the past. The field is divided into two classes: the Superprestigio class, which features some of the best asphalt riders in the world; and the Open class, in which the best of the off-road world will compete. Marc Marquez leads the Superprestigio class, which also features his brother Alex, former Moto2 champion and current AMA Superbike rider Toni Elias, World Superbike stars Jordi Torres and Xavi Fores, former World Superbike star Ruben Xaus, World Endurance star Vincent Philippe, Moto2 men Xavi Vierge, Marcel Schrotter and Xavier Simeon, and Moto3 stars Fabio Di Giannantonio, Joan Mir and Jorge Martin.

The Open class features riders from a wide range of off-road disciplines. Brad Baker is the main attraction, the former AMA Flat Track Grand Champion having attended every edition so far. Baker's AMA rival Jared Mees had intended to compete, but the American broke a collarbone while training, and will not be fit in time. Baker will face Speedway World Cup winner Fredrik Lindgren, former Supermoto champions Tom Chareyre and Sylvain Bidart, former Enduro junior world champion Oriol Mena, and a host of top European dirt trackers, including Ferran Cardus, Ollie Brindley, Allan Birtwistle, and Australian newcomer Tom Edwards.

The race is to be held at the Palau Sant Jordi, as it has been for the past four years. The indoor arena was originally built as part of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics complex, and sits atop the Montjuic hill, the site of the Spanish Grand Prix in 1968. Practice starts on Saturday morning at 11am, while doors open for the main racing at 4:30pm, with the first race due to kick off at 6:30pm. The Superfinal, in which the best riders from the Open class face the best of the Superprestigio class, closes out the night at 9:10pm.

The show is to be streamed live on the MotoGP.com website, as well as on Youtube, and the Superprestigio website with live commentary from WorldSBK commentator Greg Haines. A full time schedule is on the Superprestigio DTX Barcelona website, as well as a full entry list and news and updates. Tickets for the event start at €22, and can be purchased from the RPM Ticket website.

As we have done every year, MotoMatters.com will be on the scene and reporting from the event. To get into the mood, you can watch video of the full event from last year:

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MotoGP Rule Tweaks: Intermediate Tires Go, Extra Slick Added, Medical, Disciplinary Measures Tweaked

December is a time for reflection, and for making the necessary changes to the rulebook where incidents during the season have made clear. Last week, MotoGP's rule making body, the Grand Prix Commission met to review the 2016 season and make a few necessary adjustments to the MotoGP rulebook. Fortunately, they decided not to do anything quite so drastic as the Superbike Commission did at the same time.

The most eye-catching change is the dropping of intermediate tires in MotoGP. Intermediates had been introduced at the request of the teams and Dorna, to allow riders to go out during sessions when conditions were not suitable for slicks. However, the experience of 2016 showed that intermediates were rarely used, and when they were, they added little or no value over soft slicks or hard wets. During a press conference at Valencia, Michelin boss Nicolas Goubert said "at some races, there were riders on track with slicks, with intermediate, and with rain tires, all at the same time."

The loss of the intermediate is to be compensated by an extra tire choice for both front and rear slicks. Though the total allocation is not to be increased, the riders will now have three front compounds, plus an option tire, and three rear compounds, plus an option tire, to choose from. Several times during 2016, Michelin was already bringing a choice of four front tires (i.e. three plus an option) to the races, so this is merely formalizing an already existing situation. The addition of an extra tire will most likely be at the soft end of the spectrum, to allow a soft slick to fill the void left by the loss of intermediates.

The remainder of the rule changes were less significant, though one or two merit mention. As the use of onboard cameras in Moto2 and Moto3 has grown, there were some complaints that bikes with cameras had an unfair disadvantage. Ballast is to be added to balance that out. 

An extra appeals board will be put in place at each track, to allow the FIM Stewards to hear appeals against penalties issued immediately, rather than having to wait for several days.

An interesting change has been made to the medical code, giving the riders a little more confidentiality over their medical records. As the Clinica Mobile has come to play a significant role in the  medical treatment of riders - many riders prefer to consult the Clinica, rather than their home doctors - there has been some dilution of medical privacy. That has led FIM doctors and Clinica staff to disclose information to the media, without the permission of the riders.

The new rule change is also in part a response to some of the more serious incidents in MotoGP, including the tragic death of Luis Salom. Chains of communication in such cases are now much clearer, with family members and teams being informed first, and only then statements being made to the media, with permission.

An important change was also made to the duties of a rider. They must now inform MotoGP medical staff if they pick up an injury outside of MotoGP events. For example, a rider breaking a bone or suffering a concussion in a training accident will have to inform MotoGP medical staff, and submit themselves for medical examination before being passed fit to race.

The FIM press release with the full minutes of the Grand Prix Commission appears  below:


FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Carlos Ezpeleta (Dorna), Mike Trimby (IRTA CEO, Secretary of the meeting), Paul Duparc (FIM), Mike Webb (Race Director), Danny Aldridge (Technical Director) and Corrado Cecchinelli (Director of Technology), in a meeting held in Madrid on 2 December 2016, made the following decisions:

Effective Season 2017

Technical Regulations

Dummy Cameras/Weights in Moto3 and Moto2
Currently the top six riders in Moto3 and Moto2 are required to carry on board cameras. It is considered that the additional weight involved in classes where machine performance is so equal could disadvantage riders required to carry the cameras. It will now be a requirement for other machines not equipped with actual cameras to carry dummy versions or weights, in the same positions.

Whilst there will be no change in the minimum machine/rider weight in Moto3, in the Moto2 class the minimum weight will be increased by two kilos to 217 kilos.

Tyre Allocations – MotoGP Class
After consultation with the Safety Commission and with the approval of Michelin, tyre allocations have been changed.

Intermediate tyres will no longer be available.

The maximum number of wet and dry track tyres remains unchanged but there is an additional specification of front and rear dry slick tyres available to choose.

Sporting Regulations

Moto2 and Moto3 Testing
The regulation limiting the days of private testing has been clarified and now applies exclusively to contracted riders. Teams may test with any contracted rider at any circuit for a maximum of ten days per rider during the season, in addition to official tests and tests in November after the last event.

Race Start Procedure
Any rider who arrives at the grid behind the safety car after completing his warm up lap must now enter the pit lane and start the race from the pit lane exit.

Speeding in Pit Lane
Following instances of certain riders breaking pit lane speed limits several times during the same event the conclusion was that the current penalty of €150.00 per offence was not a sufficient deterrent. In future, the fine for the first offence will be €200.00 but second and subsequent offences can be penalised with larger fines or other penalties determined, according to circumstances, by the FIM MotoGP Stewards.

Restarted Races
The regulations will be modified to make it clear that when a race is interrupted after less than three laps have been completed, all riders may start including riders who might not have completed the sighting or warm up lap for the original start.

Officials
At all Grand Prix events the Clerk of the Course and the Chief Medical Officer must be holders of the relevant FIM Superlicence.

Track Safety
In reaction to recent incidents, it is no longer permitted for track marshals to clean the track or alter the condition of the racing surface without prior instructions or authorisation from the Race Director and the Safety Officer.

Disciplinary Matters

The function and responsibilities of the Race Direction and the FIM MotoGP Stewards remain unchanged. Race Direction, which comprises the Race Director, the FIM Representative and a Dorna representative have no role in the application of penalties but may refer matters to the FIM MotoGP Stewards comprising the Race Director, a permanent FIM Steward and a second FIM Steward appointed by rotation.

The change involves the creation of a second tier of “Appeal Stewards” comprising an additional Steward appointed by the FIM and a second Steward appointed by the FMNR. The Appeal Stewards will be present at every event and will hear appeals against any decisions of the FIM MotoGP Stewards. This means that in virtually all cases results and sanctions can be confirmed or annulled during the event. (Previously, appeals against decisions of the FIM MotoGP Stewards could only be heard by the FIM Court of Appeal which was not present at events and had four days to reach a decision).

Medical Code

Various changes have been made to the FIM Medical Code including giving the FIM Medical Officer more power and responsibility to ensure that medical facilities and staff are adequate and competent to deal with injured riders.

The code has also reinforced the right of injured riders to have confidentiality respected about their condition. Medical staff or race officials are no longer authorised to make statements to any third party, other than immediate relatives, about the condition of injured riders without the authorisation of the FIM and Dorna.

Reacting to numerous recent incidents where riders have been injured at events other than MotoGP, or in training, riders will now be responsible for notifying the relevant FIM Medical Officer and the CMO of any injury or illness that might affect his/her ability to ride or compete.


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

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

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2017 Provisional MotoGP Calendar - Sachsenring Now On 2nd July

The FIM today issued a revised and updated version of the provisional 2017 MotoGP calendar. The calendar features just a single change: the date of the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring has been moved forward two weeks, and will now take place on 2nd July.

The change has both benefits and disadvantages. On the plus side, moving the date of the Sachsenring race means that the riders now have a proper summer break again, with a month off to recover between the Sachsenring and the following race at Brno. Under the previous calendar, they had only three weeks between the German and Czech Grand Prix.

The downside is that the series now has another back-to-back race to contend with. Outside of the Pacific flyaway races (which are usually held on three consecutive weekends for reasons of cost and logistics), Dorna tries to avoid back-to-back races where possible. There are now three pairs of European races on consecutive weekends: Mugello on 4th June and Barcelona on 11th June; Assen on 25th June and Sachsenring on 2nd July; and Brno on 6th August and Austria on 13th of August. Notably, these pairings are all sequential, meaning the MotoGP grid will face three lots of back-to-back weekends in a row.

The 2017 MotoGP calendar is still provisional, though it is unlikely to change much further. The reason for the calendar not being made official is because contracts for the British Grand Prix and for Sepang still have to be formalized. Sepang has made their intention clear, as the MotoGP race at the Malaysian circuit is its most popular event. As for the British Grand Prix, the Circuit of Wales still holds the contracts, and has to finalize details of a deal with Silverstone to run the race there.

The updated provisional calendar is as follows:

Date Grand Prix Venue
26 March Qatar* Losail International Circuit
09 April República Argentina Termas de Río Hondo
23 April Americas Circuit of The Americas
07 May Spain Circuito de Jerez
21 May France Le Mans
04 June Italy Autodromo del Mugello
11 June Catalunya Barcelona - Catalunya
25 June Netherlands TT Circuit Assen
02 July Germany Sachsenring
06 August Czech Republic Automotodrom Brno
13 August Austria Red Bull Ring - Spielberg
27 August Great Britain** Silverstone Circuit
10 September San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
24 September Aragón MotorLand Aragón
15 October Japan Twin Ring Motegi
22 October Australia Phillip Island
29 October Malaysia** Sepang International Circuit
12 November Comunitat Valenciana Comunitat Valenciana - Ricardo Tormo

* Night race
** Subject to contract

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WorldSBK Organizers Attempt To Inject Excitement By Manipulating Race 2 Grid

The Superbike Commission, governing body for the WorldSBK series, met at Madrid to introduce a number of changes to the rules for the World Superbike and World Supersport championships for 2017. There were some minor changes to the sporting regulations, as well as a couple of tweaks to the technical regulations. But there were also two major changes which will have a significant impact for next season and beyond.

The biggest change is also the most surprising and the least comprehensible. There is to be a major shake up in the way the grid for the second World Superbike race is set. The Superpole session run on Saturday morning will continue to set the grid for Race 1. The grid for Race 2, however, will be partially set by the results of Race 1, using a slightly complex formula.

The first three rows of the grid for Race 2 will be filled by the riders who finished in 1st through 9th place in Race 1. They will not, however, line up in their finishing order. The riders who finished in 4th, 5th, and 6th in Race 1 will start Race 2 from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd on the grid. The riders who finished in 7th, 8th, and 9th will start from 4th, 5th, and 6th.

The riders who finished on the podium, however, will line up on the third row of the grid in reverse order. This means that the winner will line up in 9th, the rider who finished 2nd will start in 8th, and the rider who finished in 3rd will start the race from 7th on the grid.

The grid from 10th place onwards will be set based on Superpole results. That does not necessarily mean that the starting positions 10 through 22 will be the same as in Race 1, however, as riders who started outside of the top 9 places, but finished 9th or better will move up. similarly, riders who qualified in the top 9 but crashed out or finished outside the top 9 will be reshuffled down to the fourth row or worse.

All this makes calculating grid positions a little complicated for 10th place and beyond. Basically, the riders who did not finish in the top 9 in Race 1 will start Race 2 in order of their qualifying time. Of the remaining riders, the rider with the best qualifying position from Superpole will start from 10th, the second best qualifying position will start from 11th, etc. 

The most controversial change is obviously the change to the top 9, however. In what appears to be an attempt to make the racing a little more exciting, success in Race 1 is to be punished, with the podium finishers being put back to the third row of the grid. The idea, presumably, is that the best riders from Race 1 will have to make their way through traffic, providing some excitement and making it more difficult for a rider who dominates Race 1 to do the same in Race 2. 

This would appear to be a misguided idea for several reasons: firstly, the essence of World Championship motorcycle racing is to find the rider and machine combination which performs best in each race. Adding additional, complex obstacles to one group while not applying the same to another would appear to violate the sporting ethos of a World Championship series. That risks alienating the hard core of World Superbike fans which are the backbone of the sport.

Secondly, making the way the grid is set so complex risks making it difficult for casual fans to understand what is going on. Fans will find it hard to remember the process, and have difficulty explaining it to their friends. Though ultimately, grid positions are not the most important part of a race weekend, unnecessary complexity is more likely to make things worse rather than better. 

Finally, it is unlikely to make much difference. In 2016, Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, and Chaz Davies split the overwhelming majority of race wins among them. Rea and Davies both won races starting from 6th position, while Sykes won starting from 4th and finished 2nd starting from 5th. Rea, Sykes, and Davies were dominant throughout 2016, often finishing many seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Starting from 7th through 9th will slow them up only slightly, and is unlikely to reduce their chances of winning. 

Such a system is more likely to result in one rider dominating the second race. With the three best riders on the third row, the chances of them all hitting the front together is slim. It is more likely that one rider will get a break and get through quickly, while one or both of the others gets caught up briefly. If one of the fastest riders hits the front on his own, he is more likely to get a gap and get away.

An intellectually more interesting question - but one which again highlights the weakness of the new system - is whether it places a premium on finishing 4th. The points differential between finishing 3rd and 4th in Race 1 is 3 points (16 vs 13). The question riders who find themselves battling for 3rd in Race 1 will have to ask themselves is whether they will gain more points over their championship rivals in Race 2 by starting from pole than they would by taking the 3 extra points for 3rd and starting from 7th, two rows further back. Battles for 3rd place could devolve into the opposite, a battle for 4th with riders slowing down to try to force the others to overtake. That will not make the championship look very good.

It is easy to guess why the Superbike Commission made such a change. With the popularity of the series languishing, they are trying to find a way to make it more attractive. They are caught between a rock and a hard place, however: they have already split up the two-race format over two days, and moved the races to start at 1pm local time. They have done this to avoid racing at the same time as Formula One, which they often clash with over the course of the season. The early races make it less attractive to attend each weekend, but more attractive for TV stations, who can show the World Superbike series without the fear of having to go against the ratings juggernaut which is Formula One. 

The question is, just how successful will this rule change be? The omens are not particularly good. 

The second major change to the rules is far less controversial. World Supersport races are now also to be run under the same flag-to-flag format as World Superbike. This requires a change in the technical rules, to allow parts to be replaced which will make wheel swaps faster.

Below is the press release containing the new regulations:


FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships
Changes to the Regulations for 2017

The Superbike Commission composed of Messrs Gregorio Lavilla (WSBK Sporting Department Director), Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA Representative), Rezsö Bulcsu (FIM CCR Director) in the presence of Messrs Daniel Carrera (Dorna), Paul Duparc, Charles Hennekam and Scott Smart (FIM) in a meeting held in Madrid (ESP) on 01 December, made the following changes to the 2017 MOTUL FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships Regulations:

Sporting Regulations

  1. Slight changes have been carried out to the Sporting rules concerning mainly the meanings of the signalling flags or riders behaviours. In each class, 2 wild cards will be allocated for each event and the deadline for presenting the wild card candidature will be extended to 90 days for overseas event.
     
  2. The formation of the grid for Race 2 will now be decided following race results from Saturday. Superpole results will continue to define starting positions for riders who finished in 10th position or lower, however the front of the grid will now be determined on Race One results.
    The front three rows will be affected in the following way:
    • Top three riders move back to row three and see 1st and 3rd reverse their positions.
    • Riders who finished in 4th, 5th and 6th will be promoted to the front row.
    • Riders who finished in 7th, 8th and 9th will start from the second row.
       
  3. A new and updated time schedule across the weekend is to be defined which means we will see changes to how the WorldSBK race weekend is played out, especially with the introduction of the World Supersport 300 series.
     
  4. There is to be ban of the use of scooters in order to aid track familiarization in the build up to or over a race weekend. Walking or the use of push bikes will be permitted, as seen in MotoGP™.
     
  5. On a similar note there is set to be a prevention of machines at the back of the grid for race formation which is again mirroring the regulations of MotoGP™.
     
  6. FIM Supersport World Championship (600 class) will welcome an introduction of flag to flag races, meaning we will see Supersport motorcycles change tyres during a race when conditions change.

It is reminded that as from 2017, the FIM Superstock 1000cc Cup becomes a European Championship under the name of European Superstock 1000 Championship.

Technical Regulations

Various technical changes are to be implemented into WorldSBK for 2017, and despite some only being minor it will see a large impact on the series.

FIM Superbike World Championship: Airbox regulations have been updated meaning sensors will now be allowed to change. Additionally parts of the Variable intake tract system may now be replaced for added strength, whilst retaining exactly the same functionality as the respective street bike.

FIM Supersport World Championship: In terms of technical modifications for this class updates have been brought in to allow modifications to the wheel axles, related parts and front fender mounts. These changes will mean we will see easier, safer and faster wheel changes.

Medical Updates

As of the upcoming season, it will now be the athlete's duty to immediately inform the medical director if there are changes in his/her health condition which may interfere with the ability to ride.

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Surgery Season: Riders In Every Class Go Under The Knife In Preparation For 2017

If ever there was a time to be disabused of any notions of the glamorous life a professional motorcycle racer leads, the weeks immediately following the end of the racing season, after testing has been completed, is surely it. Riders around the world head into operating theaters and physical rehabilitation facilities to have more permanent fixes applied to the temporary patch up jobs done to allow them to keep racing during the season. 

There has been a long list of riders having surgery or treatment of one sort or another over the past week or so. On the Friday after the Valencia test, Cal Crutchlow went in for surgery on a finger in his right hand, to have the joint cleaned up and treated for arthritis. Arthritis in joints is a very common complaint in riders young and old, as the joints take a beating in crashes. It is the reason why many riders prefer to head off to warmer climes for the winter, as the cold causes pain in their joints.

Arm pump is another common issue which riders get fixed over the winter. Two of the WorldSBK championship's protagonists had their issues addressed this week, after the last test of the year down in Jerez. Double world champion Jonathan Rea underwent surgery to alleviate the symptoms of arm pump on his right arm. The Kawasaki rider's arm pump had flared up at Jerez, during the two race simulations he put in last Thursday. Chaz Davies had both arms done, after issues with arm pump throughout the season.

Ligament damage is another serious problem when crashing. Nicky Hayden had surgery on his right knee just over a week ago, having the MCL ligament reattached by doctors in San Diego. On Wednesday, Marco Melandri also had surgery on his right knee, to fix a torn meniscus. Unusually for a motorcycle racer, Melandri did not pick up his injury on the track, but rather at a charity soccer match, where he twisted his knee awkwardly.

Bradley Smith is also still recovering from badly damaging his knee, the Englishman having had a bike run over his leg during practice at a World Endurance event at Oschersleben. The damage means that Smith is basically riding without an ACL ligament, a common affliction among motocross riders especially. The recovery period after surgery to repair the ACL is too long (up to six months before full fitness) to get the problem dealt with during their careers, so riders tend to wait until after retirement for surgery.

Smith has been working on his physical rehabilitation, however, and on Thursday, he tweeted that he had made major progress, speaking of a "game changer". Smith spent time at the Red Bull Diagnostic Training Center in Thalgau, near Salzburg in Austria. Having joined KTM, Smith automatically switched energy drink sponsors to become part of Red Bull. Red Bull has an extensive support program for the athletes they sponsor, part of which includes the DTC in Thalgau. It is the second time Smith has received support from his energy drink sponsors for the injury, the Monster Energy athlete liaison having done a great deal for him when he injured his leg in Germany, including having medical documents translated for surgery.

Another common reason for hospital visits by motorcycle racers is to have some of the metalwork inserted during the season removed. Riders will often have titanium plates inserted to fix broken bones if they crash mid-season, so that they can return to racing as quickly as possible. The winter is the perfect time to have such plates removed, as the screws which hold the plates in place leave holes in the bones when removed, and the winter break is sufficient time for the bones to regrow and fill the holes. This week, it was the turn of Moto3 riders Aron Canet and John McPhee to have metalwork removed. Both had suffered injuries during the season and had plates fitted, and both went under the surgeon's knife to have them removed.

Finally, Jorge Navarro also had surgery this week, but not to have anything removed. The Spaniard had suffered problems with his shoulder this year, the joint being prone to dislocation. Navarro, who will be racing in Moto2 in 2017, had surgery to fix the ligaments in his left shoulder, ready for the start of the coming year.

The glamorous life of a professional racer will continue after recovery. While the rest of the world spends the months of December and January fattening themselves up over the various holidays around the world, riders are attempting to adhere to an ascetic lifestyle in the midst of plenty. They are preparing for the coming season by following a hard training regime, while adhering to a strict diet to keep their weight down as much as possible. All in the hope of the fleeting thrill of glory next year, and to improve their chances of victory.

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Subscriber Feature: Why Jorge Lorenzo Had A Tough Time With Tires In 2016

What went wrong for Jorge Lorenzo in 2016? A lot of things. The Spaniard was quickest during the Sepang test, a full second faster than his teammate. He started the season strongly, with a win at Qatar, then a strong run of form from Austin to Mugello, finishing either first or second every race except in Argentina, where he crashed. That crash perhaps foreshadowed what was to come: unable to match the pace of the leaders, he pushed hard to manage the gap. He went slightly off line and hit a damp patch on the track, and lost the front.

The cause of that problem – Michelin's tires in poor grip conditions – would be a recurring pattern. At Barcelona, after the track layout was changed to make it safer in response to the tragic death of Luis Salom, Lorenzo was once again struggling, and was wiped out by an impatient Andrea Iannone. At Assen, the Sachsenring, Brno and Silverstone, Lorenzo had an awful time in the wet. At Phillip Island, it was the same, this time cold temperatures in the race causing problems after so much of practice was washed out by the rain.

Why was Lorenzo struggling? Was it really just a question of the Spaniard being afraid of the rain? Or is there something more to it than that? And how will Lorenzo cope with this on the Ducati next year?

The interface between bike and track

The answer to all of these questions revolve around tires, and grip. Jorge Lorenzo's riding style requires several key things: a bike that is stable in corners, a front tire with good, predictable grip, and a rear tire with a lot of edge grip. Because his riding style relies so heavily on corner speed, his bike is set up long and more softly sprung than other riders, making it more difficult to generate heat into the tires.

The extreme lean angles Lorenzo achieves cause problems in both the wet and the dry. When Cal Crutchlow was still riding a Yamaha M1 with the Tech 3 team, and could see Lorenzo's data for comparison, he told us repeatedly "the only time I get the same lean angle as Jorge is just before I crash."

This is part of a semi-regular series of insights into the world of motorcycle racing, exclusive for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The series will include background information, in-depth analysis, and opinion pieces. Though the vast majority of content on MotoMatters.com is to remain free to read, most notably the daily round ups at each MotoGP event, a select amount of content will be made available solely to those who have taken out a subscription.

The aim is to increase the number of site supporters and be able to move away from online advertising altogether, a model which is broken, as the rise of ad blockers demonstrates. Adding exclusive subscriber content adds value for site supporters, in addition to the desktop-sized versions of Scott Jones' photos for the site. The hope is that this will persuade more of our regular readers to support MotoMatters.com financially, and help us grow and improve the site. 

If you would like to become a site supporter, you can take out a subscription here. If you are already a subscriber, you can read the full feature explaining why Jorge Lorenzo is struggling, including an extensive explanation from his team manager at Yamaha, Wilco Zeelenberg, here.

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2017 WorldSBK Calendar Released: Portimao Returns, Jerez, Sepang Disappear

The provisional 2017 World Superbike calendar has been released, but unlike the MotoGP calendar, which is unchanged, there are a couple of minor differences to the schedule. The World Superbike class will contest 13 rounds, just as they did in 2016, spread across three continents. Sepang and Jerez have been dropped, and Portimao makes a comeback.

The WorldSBK calendar also sees a new class added to the series. As announced previously, the new WorldSSP300 class has been added as a cheap entry series, where young riders will take each other on aboard a wide range of the cheap, one and two cylinder sports bikes which manufacturers are currently building. Homologated race bikes will include the Yamaha YZF-R3, the Kawasaki Ninja 300, the KTM RC390, and the Honda CBR500R.

The season kicks off as always at Phillip Island, on 26th February, a week after the final preseason test, and ten days after the MotoGP test which is scheduled to be held there. From there, the WorldSBK grid heads to Thailand, to the Chang International Circuit, before heading back to Europe.

The races in Europe follow their usual schedule: Aragon, Assen, Imola, Donington Park, Misano, before the World Superbike riders head across the Atlantic to Laguna Seca, for the last race before the summer break. That break is fortunately much shorter then last year, with a month between Laguna Seca and the next round at the Lausitzring in Germany.

But the WorldSBK riders face a wait of another month before the tenth round of the series, which sees World Superbikes make a return to the Portimao circuit in Portugal. From there, they travel north to France, and Magny-Cours, before the final two rounds. The last round is as always in Qatar – a privilege it pays a hefty fee for. The Qatar round will also be held on a Saturday, rather than the Sunday, to fit in better with local customs.

The penultimate round of WorldSBK is still listed as TBA. Though there is no confirmation, there are persistent rumors that the series is seriously considering a return to Brno. The fact that both the WorldSSP300 series and the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup are scheduled to race at that round does suggests it will be held somewhere in Europe. Whether the weather is clement enough for racing in Brno in mid-October is open to question.

Dorna have been careful to schedule the WorldSBK series so it does not clash with any MotoGP rounds. The only same day schedule is with the twelfth, TBA round, but as that would clash with the Japanese round in Motegi, which takes place early in the day, it should not present any real problems.

A bigger problem is that in avoiding clashes with MotoGP, WorldSBK finds itself up against a more direct competitor in BSB British Superbikes series. The two series are scheduled on seven of the same weekends: Aragon WorldSBK faces Donington BSB, Assen faces Oulton Park, Misano is up against Knockhill, Lausitzring against Cadwell Park, Portimao against Oulton Park and Magny-Cours against Assen. For the most part, the different time schedules of the two series should mean the races of the two series are not on at the same time. There are also seven clashes with Formula One, but again, the different time schedules should avoid direct race clashes.

Below is the provisional schedule:

Date Country Circuit WorldSBK WorldSSP WorldSSP300 STK1000
24-26 February Australia Phillip Island X X    
10-12 March Thailand Chang International X X    
31 March-2 April Spain Aragon X X X X
28-30 April The Netherlands Assen X X X X
12-14 May Italy Imola X X X X
26-28 May Great Britain Donington Park X X X X
16-18 June Italy Misano X X X X
7-9 July USA* Laguna Seca X      
18-20 August Germany Lausitzring X X X X
15-17 September Portugal Portimao X X X X
29 Sep-1 October France Magny-Cours X X X X
13-15 October TBA TBA     X X
2-4 November Qatar** Losail X X    
*Subject to contract
**(SC) Schedule change - Round held Thursday – Saturday

 

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