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Dani Pedrosa Fractures Collarbone, Out for Flyaways

Dani Pedrosa has suffered more bad luck at Motegi. For the second time in his career, he has crashed there and broken a collarbone.

The Repsol Honda rider suffered a huge highside at the end of the afternoon FP2 session, being flung high into the air at Turn 11. The Spaniard immediate got up holding his collarbone, and was taken on the back of a scooter to the medical center. There, he was diagnosed with a fractured right collarbone.

Pedrosa is to fly back immediately to Spain, where he will undergo surgery to fix the collarbone. Officially, the Repsol Honda team have only ruled him out of Sunday's race at Motegi. However, it is extremely unlikely that the Spaniard will return before Valencia. Dr Xavier Mir, one of the official doctors for MotoGP, told Spanish reporters he did not expect to see Pedrosa back until the final race of the season.

The Repsol Honda team will not need to find a replacement for this weekend's race at Motegi, though as it is at Honda's home circuit, one of HRC's two test riders could step in. The most likely candidate to take Pedrosa's place would be Hiroshi Aoyama, who replaced Pedrosa in Austin, Argentina, and Jerez while the Spaniard was recovering from surgery to fix an arm pump problem. If Pedrosa misses both Phillip Island and Sepang, then Honda will be forced to use a replacement.

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Hector Barbera to Replace Andrea Iannone, Mike Jones in for Barbera

Three days after announcing that they would not be replacing the injured Andrea Iannone, the factory Ducati squad have changed their mind. On Thursday, the Bologna factory announced that Hector Barbera would be taking Iannone's place in the factory Ducati team, while Barbera's slot in the Avintia Ducati MotoGP team will be taken by Australian rider Mike Jones.

The decision was forced upon Ducati by Dorna and IRTA. Under the FIM regulations, teams must make "every reasonable effort" to replace an absent rider, with only force majeure (or exceptional circumstances beyond their control) acceptable as a reason to leave a seat empty. The series organizers clearly believed that force majeure did not apply in this case, as Iannone's decision to skip the race was due to an injury picked up at Misano, five weeks ago.

Ducati were placed in a difficult situation, as test rider Michele Pirro is currently giving the Desmosedici GP17 its first shakedown test at Valencia, a test considered too important in light of Jorge Lorenzo's impending debut on the bike at the Valencia test. Casey Stoner turned down the offer of replacing Iannone at Motegi, and so Ducati initially decided not to replace the Italian. 

They have now been forced to. With their usual options limited, Ducati asked the Avintia team to allow Hector Barbera to replace Iannone in the factory team. Barbera is a logical choice: the two Pramac riders, Scott Redding and Danilo Petrucci, were not available, as they are in the middle of an internal team battle over which of them is to have the single GP17 which Ducati will make available to the Pramac team next year. In addition to that, replacing a rider in Pramac would have been more difficult, Paolo Ciabatti told GPOne.com.

Hector Barbera was the best option in the circumstances. He is the best-placed Ducati rider in the championship behind the two factory riders. He has shown good form in both wet and dry, and has finished inside the top ten several times this season, though Aspar's Eugene Laverty has been running him very close all year.

Taking Barbera's place in Avintia is Mike Jones. The 22-year-old Australian is currently racing a Ducati Panigale with the Desmo Sport team in the Australian Superbike championship, which he won in 2015. Jones has not experience of MotoGP, but the Australian spent some time racing in Europe in the European Superstock 600 cup. Jones' Australian Superbike team is run by Troy Bayliss, World Superbike legend and former MotoGP rider. Last year, Jones ran the #1 plate as reigning Australian championship, replacing his normal #46. That number is rather famously taken in MotoGP, and so Jones will run the #7 this weekend.

Below is the official Ducati press release:


Ducati Team line up for GP of Japan with Hector Barbera alongside Andrea Dovizioso at Motegi

The Ducati Team has arrived at Motegi for the Grand Prix of Japan, the fifteenth round of the 2016 MotoGP World Championship and the first of three challenging end-of-season overseas races that will continue over the next two weekends in Australia and in Malaysia.

The Italian squad will be lining up at Motegi with two riders, but this time Andrea Dovizioso will have as his team-mate Hector Barbera from Spain, who takes part in the world championship with Avintia Racing. Thanks to the Spanish team, the rider from Valencia replaces Andrea Iannone for this race and will now be able to get some valuable track time with the same Desmosedici GP that he will race next season.

The Twin Ring Motegi circuit, the venue for a round of the premier category in Japan since 1999, has a very unusual layout, with a series of long straights followed by tight corners that are a tough test for braking and acceleration performance. In the past Motegi has proved to be a favourable circuit for the Ducati Team, which has scored some great results here: in particular four wins by Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner, who clinched his first world title with Ducati in 2007.

Andrea Dovizioso likes the Japanese circuit a lot, and he has stepped onto the podium in all three categories, winning the 125 race in 2004, and setting two of his four career pole positions at Motegi. Last year the Italian qualified fourth with his GP15 and finished the race in fifth place.

Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 7th (104 points)

“Motegi is one of my favourite tracks because you brake very hard and even though we were unable to express all of our potential at the last round in Aragón, I think that this year we can be very competitive. In any case I start the weekend confident because here I have always scored quite good results in MotoGP, picking up two poles in 2010 and 2014.”

Hector Barbera (Ducati Team #8) – 10th (84 points)

“I am very excited, because it is incredible to be a part of the factory team, even though it’s only for one race. I really want to do well, and Motegi is a ‘stop-and-go’ track that adapts well to the Desmosedici GP, which has a lot of power. I am ready to capitalize on this occasion and do a good race, and I want to thank Ducati and Avintia Racing for giving me this opportunity.”


Avintia Racing rider Hector Barbera joins Ducati Team at Motegi

Avintia Racing rider Hector Barbera will switch from blue to red this weekend at Motegi. From tomorrow on, he is going to ride injured Andrea Iannone’s Ducati Team Desmosedici GP. Riding the official version of his own successful Desmosedici 14.2. is a big chance for the Spaniard and also a reward for his great season so far with Avintia Racing. At the same time, this race weekend is a welcome opportunity to test and familiarize himself with the bike he will be riding next season for Avintia.

In Avintia Racing, Barbera will be replaced with Australian Mike Jones, who will give his debut in the MotoGP class in Japan. Jones is Australian Superbike Champion 2015 and finished fifth overall this season riding for Desmo Sport Ducati Team, the structure of the former Australian World Superbike champion and MotoGP winner Troy Bayliss.

Hector Barbera

“I’m really happy. I have been waiting for this opportunity for many years and finally my dream comes true this weekend. First of all I want to say big thanks to Avintia for allowing me to join the factory team, because without their support and all the sponsors behind the team this wouldn’t be possible. Right now I feel excited, motivated and eager to get the best possible result. But until I jump on the bike tomorrow, I keep scratching myself because it’s so hard to believe. Today I did interviews and this kind of the things like a factory rider, but I still feel like a child on Christmas day and it takes time to realise that it is the reality and not only a dream. I’m sure this will be a special weekend and I will do everything in my power to justify Ducati’s faith in me with a good result”.

Andrea Iannone to Skip Motegi, Back for Phillip Island

Andrea Iannone is to miss the MotoGP round at Motegi. The Italian has been advised by his doctors to skip the first of the three Pacific flyaway rounds to allow the vertebra he fractured at Misano to heal. 

Iannone picked up the injury on the first day of his home race at Misano. Though the injury is on the forward side of the T3 vertebra, making it less vulnerable to a repeat injury, the fracture has caused him to miss both Misano and Aragon. Motegi will be the third race which Iannone will be forced to miss.

The factory Ducati team will not field a replacement for Iannone. The decision came as late as possible for the factory, to give Iannone as much time as possible to be fit in time for the Japanese race. That has not been possible, but doctors are confident that Iannone will be fit to race in Phillip Island, the second of the three flyaways. Given that Iannone had such a strong race there in 2015, ending on the podium after a four-way dice with Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, he will be keen to race in Australia, in the hope of pulling off a repeat.

Below is the press release from Ducati:


Andrea Iannone will miss this weekend’s Grand Prix of Japan at Motegi and is scheduled to return at Phillip Island

Andrea Iannone will not be taking part in the Grand Prix of Japan, which will be held this coming weekend at Motegi’s Twin Ring circuit.

Last week the Ducati Team’s Italian rider underwent a series of checks, which showed that the excess fluid in his back injury had been almost totally absorbed and that the calcification process of the T3 vertebra, which he fractured at Misano after crashing during the first free practice session for the San Marino GP, was now well underway.

However Iannone’s doctor has advised him to continue with his rehabilitation and to wait a few more days until the fracture has completely healed, before going out onto the track once again.

The rider from Vasto, in agreement with his team, has therefore decided not to take part in the GP of Japan and to return to the championship at the Australian GP from 21 to 23 October. Last year, at Phillip Island, Iannone was the protagonist of a spectacular race, finishing on the podium in third place.

The Ducati Team has decided not to replace Iannone for the Japanese round and will only line up on the grid at Motegi with Andrea Dovizioso.

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2017 MotoGP Test Dates - Sepang, Phillip Island, Qatar

The 2017 season is starting to take shape. After the announcement of the provisional 2017 MotoGP calendar in the run up to Aragon, Dorna published the schedule of official tests for the 2017 preseason. Like the race calendar, the test calendar looks remarkably similar to last year.

Testing kicks off after the final race of 2016 in Valencia, and as last year, the riders get a day off between the race and the test, with the bikes taking to the track on Tuesday. Up until last year, the test had always started on the Monday after the race, but that was changed last year, with the explanation that the teams needed an extra day of preparation to get the bikes set up with the Michelin tires and spec electronics.

No major technical rules are to change for 2017 (with the exception of the banning of winglets), but the extra day of rest is to be maintained. Teams felt that the quality of feedback on Monday was often poor, with riders having spent all their energy in the last race of the year, the effort of the season just past catching up with them. A day off to recover, both physically and mentally, should allow the riders to focus more during the two-day test, and provide better feedback.

The Valencia test - which will be open to the public, for anyone staying on after the final race - will see a lot of team changes and riders swapping bikes. Perhaps the most eagerly awaited is Jorge Lorenzo, who will get his first taste of the Ducati at Valencia, the Italian factory working flat out to get a preliminary version of the Ducati Desmosedici GP17 ready for the test. That will be all the time he gets on the bike, though, as Yamaha have reportedly vetoed any further tests for Lorenzo in 2016. He will have to wait until 2017 to get a private test on the Desmosedici.

The Valencia test will also see Maverick Viñales take the seat vacated by Lorenzo at the Movistar Yamaha team. Viñales and Valentino Rossi will not see too many major updates at Valencia, but according to the Italian broadcaster Sky, Yamaha will be bringing some radical updates to the M1 to a private test at Sepang on 23rd and 24th November. Those changes, according to Sky, are aimed at adapting the chassis better to the Michelin tires, and allowing it to brake deeper into the corners and turn better. Yamaha hope they can do this without sacrificing the M1's amazing ability to hold corner speed. The changes follow the direction the Yamaha has taken since the middle of this year, development moving away from Lorenzo's unique ability to carry corner speed, and moving to compensate the areas where  the bike is currently weaker. A new engine, with more horsepower, is reportedly also planned.

There will be more debuts, of course. Andrea Iannone will get his first taste of the Suzuki, taking over from the departing Maverick Viñales. Aleix Espargaro will head to Aprilia, where he will get to test the rapidly improving RS-GP, alongside the newly promoted Sam Lowes. And the 2017 KTM line up of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will finally get their hands on the RC16, after Mika Kallio gives it its first public outing during the race at Valencia.

The winter test ban comes into effect on 1st December, giving teams and riders a chance to recover, and the factories a chance to work through the data found during the season and at the tests, and incorporate it into their 2017 bikes. The season resumes a little earlier than normal, the Sepang test kicking off on 30th January, and lasting for three days until 1st February. 

After Sepang, the MotoGP circus heads to Phillip Island again, as it did this year. The Phillip Island test from 15th to 17th February once again replaces the second test at Sepang, giving the factories a chance to try their bikes at a different track. Importantly, it also allows Michelin to test more tires at one of the most demanding circuits of the season. 

The MotoGP riders get nearly four weeks rest after Phillip Island, giving the Moto2 and Moto3 riders their first official test of the year. The support classes assemble in Jerez on 9th March for a two-day test, though doubtless they will be busy at private tests before that. 

On 10th March, the MotoGP field gathers once again for the final test of the 2017 preseason, for three days - or rather nights - at Qatar. A week later, the Moto2 and Moto3 riders gather there, before the season kicks in earnest on 23rd of March at Qatar, with the first race of the season scheduled for 26th March.

The official test dates are below. MotoGP dates in bold, Moto2/Moto3 in italics:

Dates Class Circuit
15-16 November MotoGP Valencia (post race)
30 January-1 February MotoGP Sepang
15-17 February MotoGP Phillip Island
9-10 March Moto2/Moto3 Jerez
10-12 March MotoGP Qatar
17-19 March Moto2/Moto3 Qatar

 

Supersport 300 Class Added to WorldSBK Series From 2017

The FIM and Dorna have agreed on a new entry class for the World Superbike championship. A Supersport 300 championship has been created to house the burgeoning market of lightweight sports machines, such as the Yamaha YZF-R3 and the KTM RC390.

The concept for the class came about after consultation with manufacturers. Motorcycle manufacturers have seen sales of 600cc supersports bikes plummeting, while sales of lightweight machines have been booming. More and more manufacturers have been entering the class, though each with slightly different machines and different engine capacities.

That presents the series with its first major challenge: balancing different motorcycle concepts against one another, while still ensuring that racing remains affordable. For 2017, four machines have been homologated: the Yamaha YZF-R3, the KTM RC390, the Honda CBR500R (previously raced in the European Junior Cup) and the Kawasaki Ninja 300, one of the first bikes to be launched in the segment.

Performance balancing the concepts will initially be done via minimum weights and maximum revs, with adjustments made by agreement in the Superbike Commission, the governing body of the series. In keeping with previous performance balancing concepts, such a decision is only likely to be taken if one bike is either obviously dominating or lagging severely behind.

The bikes to be raced must remain very close to stock. The engines and frames must remain virtually unaltered, with only the removal of secondary throttle valves permitted. Electronics must be either the stock kit fitted, or a separate, homologated race kit from the manufacturer, or a Dorna-provided special Supersport kit. Datalogging is severely limited, as are changes to the suspension. Exhaust may be changed, but must retain the same number of silencers in the same position as on the road bike.

Although personal anecdotes bear no relation to real data, I noticed a very large number of Yamaha YZR-R3s in Germany, when I traveled to the Austria and Brno rounds of MotoGP by motorcycle. It felt like it was the second most common bike I came across, after BMW's ubiquitous GS. 

Below is the announcement from Dorna, plus a link to the current set of regulations:


New FIM Supersport 300 World Championship Set to Begin in 2017

FIM and Dorna WSBK Organisation announce the creation of the WorldSSP 300 Championship for 2017

This new production-based platform is designed to be the new beginner class for the WorldSBK Championship, feeding the higher categories with new talents in the near future. This class will be a perfect window for the various manufacturers to showcase their new range of lightweight 300 sport bikes that are emerging in the marketplace. The category is devoted to building rider potential and discovering new talents worldwide, with a minimum rider entry age of 15.

“This new platform will be the perfect environment for developing future talent,” said Vito Ippolito, President of FIM. “The intention of WorldSSP 300 is to create a benchmark for National Championships to follow. We want to offer an environment that is regulated and relatively equal in which future talent can grow, and where manufacturers can accompany young riders as they take their first steps towards stardom.”

“The focus is to have an affordable Series for these young competitors,” said Javier Alonso, WorldSBK Executive Director. “There has been great interest for low-capacity motorcycles in this sport and the new WorldSSP 300 class strives to offer that. It will be promoted by Manufacturers as an easily accessible championship, the best possible platform to grow future stars where Manufacturers can accompany riders from an early age and as they progress through their career.

A full list of the provisional Technical Regulations for the WorldSSP 300 Championship can be found here.

 

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Milwaukee SMR Confirmed as Factory-Backed Aprilia Squad in World SBK

Aprilia have finally confirmed that they will be providing factory backing for the Milwaukee SMR squad in WorldSBK in 2017. It had been an open secret for months that the Milwaukee team were looking to make a switch to Aprilia, and they had signed Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori to contest the championship for them. But it took a long time for the official confirmation to come through.

One of the key factors in the choice, for both Laverty and Milwaukee SMR was to have strong factory support from Aprilia for the 2017 season. The Aprilia RSV4 RF is still widely viewed as the best package on the WorldSBK grid inside the paddock, subject to the condition that the team running the bike has support from the Noale factory. The bike is quite finicky in set up, and only the factory engineers have the necessary data to get the set up just right. 

With Laverty and Savadori signed, that leaves Karel Abraham and Josh Brookes out of a ride for next year. It also leaves the IODA racing team without support from Aprilia. At this moment, what will happen to them is unclear.

Below is the press release from Aprilia on the link up with Milwaukee SMR:


APRILIA RSV4 MACHINES ON THE TRACK NEXT YEAR IN WORLD SBK WITH MILWAUKEE APRILIA RACING TEAM
THE BIKES WILL BE RIDDEN BY ITALIAN LORENZO SAVADORI AND NORTHERN IRISHMAN EUGENE LAVERTY IN THE RACES

Two Aprilia RSV4 bikes will be on the track in the 2017 World Superbike Championship with the Milwaukee Aprilia Racing Team colours.

This is a two-year contract, so it will also be valid for 2018.

The agreement specifies that technical material and related direct assistance and support will be provided by Aprilia Racing, including bike development, which classifies Milwaukee as a Supported Factory Team.

This means that Aprilia Racing - the Piaggio Group racing department and technological point of excellence in the Italian motorcycle industry - is confirming its high level presence in the premier competition for factory derivative bikes, alongside its important efforts in MotoGP.

The goal is to compete at top levels in World SBK in order to emphasize the competitiveness of the Aprilia RSV4, capable of taking no less than seven World Titles (three Rider and four Manufacturer) between 2010 and 2014, proving to be the most victorious bike in recent WSBK history.

The result of a project intended to create a true racing bike that any enthusiast could have, the RSV4 astonished from its rookie season, winning a race in its maiden year and then racking up repeated championship wins in both the Manufacturer and Rider competitions (twice with Max Biaggi and once with Sylvain Guintoli). All this while the street version - obviously also characterized by an exclusive narrow 1.0 litre V4 - continued to win comparative reviews year after year with the best competitors in the world, both European and Japanese.

The team run by Shaun Muir, which boasts two British titles, will be able to count on a top shelf rider lineup: in addition to the 2015 Superstock Champion Lorenzo Savadori, who quickly drew attention this year in his rookie World Superbike season, Northern Irishman Eugene Laverty will be back in WSBK, 2013 runner up astride none other than an Aprilia RSV4.

Romano Albesiano - Aprilia Racing Manager

"Shaun Muir's team, after making a good name for themselves in the British championship, wants to get to the top of a world category. Our agreement includes, in addition to providing bikes and materials, support from Aprilia Racing personnel to manage and develop the RSV4, within a Factory Support type relationship.

The birth of the Milwaukee Aprilia Racing Team also marks Eugene Laverty's return to WSBK, a rider who we know well and whose professional and personal qualities have our utmost respect. He will have Lorenzo Savadori working alongside him, a young rider who has been part of our sports project for two seasons in which he won the Superstock 1000 title first and then drew attention in WSBK with an extremely positive rookie year".

Shaun Muir - SMR General Manager

"For SMR, collaboration with Aprilia Racing for 2017 and 2018 means a real chance to fight for the win. Aprilia has a strong and victorious history in World Superbike and we are determined to continue on the same path. Having Eugene and Lorenzo on board makes this a dream team. Without a doubt, Eugene is coming back to WSBK for one reason only - to win. Lorenzo, on the other hand, is the fastest rookie and a sure protagonist. I wish to thank Milwaukee, Gulf and all of the partners who are supporting our project".

Eugene Laverty

"I'm excited to return to Superbike with Aprilia and the RSV4, a bike with which I took ten wins and second place overall in the championship. I hope to be able to pick up where I left off with those results, thanks to the support of Aprilia and a fantastic team like Shaun Muir's. Everything is in place for us to be competitive straight away".

Lorenzo Savadori

"I am very happy to continue my adventure in World Superbike with Aprilia. This is another chance to achieve great results, with one more year of experience on the RSV4 for me. In a demanding rookie season I was already able to express a good performance level, learning a lot, both about race management and working in the garage, but I do not want to stop here. We will definitely be highly motivated at the start, with an ambitious project and a great desire to do well".

Jason Chiswell - Vice President of Marketing Milwaukee Tools

"At Milwaukee Power tools our vision is always to win and that same mentality is shared with the SMR team. We see the next year with Aprilia as being an exciting and a new winning chapter in our World Superbike program”.

Frank Rutten - Vice President of Gulf Oil International

"As the world’s fastest growing oil brand we are very excited by the prospect of moving forwards with what we believe will be one of the most rapid teams in SBK next year. We have been extremely impressed by the way SMR has entered the World Superbike arena. They are one of the best organized and most professional outfits in the paddock and we have developed an excellent working relationship with both them and the team’s title sponsor, Milwaukee Tools.

We are very excited by the prospect of moving forwards with them as team sponsor and official lubricant partners”.


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2017 Provisional MotoGP Calendar - Almost Identical to 2016

There is a current fashion in moviemaking, of taking proven formulas from the past, giving them a light makeover and then relaunching them, then trying to spice them up by referring to them as a "reboot" or "reloaded". Dorna executives must have been to see Ghostbusters, Mad Max, and many more, as the 2017 MotoGP calendar is best described as 2016 Reloaded.

The 2017 MotoGP calendar is almost identical to the 2016 calendar, with a couple of minor tweaks. Those tweaks are a clear improvement on 2016: there are fewer large gaps, and there are fewer back-to-back races. There have been some changes to help with logistics, and some to help with race organizations. 

The season kicks off in Qatar as always, the Losail circuit paying a premium to host the first race of the year. That race will once again be a night race, and spread over four days as always. The race is on the same date as the F1 season opener in Melbourne, but as the two races take place in very different time zones at very different times, they are expected to complement one another, rather than clash.

Two weeks later, the circus heads to Argentina, to the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. That race heralds the first change to the calendar, as there is now two weeks between Argentina and Austin, rather than the two American races being back-to-back as it was in the past. The logistics of getting bikes, equipment, riders and personnel from Argentina to Austin in the space of a couple of days has proven to be a massive challenge, especially as Termas de Rio Hondo is so remote.

After Austin, the circus returns to Europe, kicking off a familiar sequence of races: Jerez, Le Mans, Mugello, Barcelona, Assen, and the Sachsenring. The calendar has been shifted this year so that Mugello and Barcelona are back-to-back. That is a 1,000 km drive for the trucks, a manageable distance after packing up in Mugello on Sunday night. 

The summer break follows the Sachsenring, though it can barely be classed as such. There are two weekends between Assen and the Sachsenring, and then two more weekends between Sachsenring and Brno. The Czech round of MotoGP is the first of the Central European back-to-backs, Brno and Austria swapping places.

This is likely to have been done to appease the Brno circuit, who feared that the Austrian round would cannibalize some of their spectators. Given the low attendance at Brno, such fears would seem to be grounded: in recent years, Sunday attendance at Brno has been in the region of 140,000. In 2016, that fell to just 82,000, though that was the first fully wet Sunday since the series returned to Brno. Friday and Saturday attendance at Brno did not appear to have been affected.

After Austria, the MotoGP circus heads across the channel to Silverstone, which will host the British Grand Prix for the Circuit of Wales. That race is still subject to contract, though the deal appears to already have been sewn up. How that situation will continue is unclear, however, with the future of the Circuit of Wales project still uncertain. There were already question marks over the funding of the project, but the result of the UK's referendum on leaving the EU has left regional budgets in disarray, with long-term planning impossible until the form any Brexit may take is clear.

From Silverstone, MotoGP heads to Misano, with an extra weekend in between offering some relief. Two weeks later follows Aragon, and then a three week break before the flyaways, the triple header of Motegi, Phillip Island and Sepang staying in their current order. The Sepang round is also subject to contract, though given the popularity of the race, it seems unlikely an agreement will not be reached.

Two weeks after Sepang, the MotoGP circus heads to Valencia for the season finale. Yesterday, the Valencia circuit concluded a deal to host the final round of MotoGP until 2021.

The 2017 calendar is still very much provisional. There may still be changes to the calendar once the F1 calendar is published in ten days' time, though it is customary for F1 and MotoGP to confer to avoid clashes. However, should F1 need to reschedule races at a later point in the year, Dorna may be forced to respond and move some MotoGP races.

The hoped for expansion into new regions has once again failed to materialize, despite Dorna's best efforts. Negotiations continue with Thailand, who are keen to host a MotoGP race, but want to drop World Superbikes in favor of MotoGP, something Dorna does not want them to do. A race in Indonesia remains a distant prospect, internal politics and corruption a continuing obstacle to getting Sentul completely renovated, and the new track in Palembang still not confirmed. 

There is still hope that new tracks could join the calendar beyond 2017. Talks continue with Finland over hosting a round of MotoGP, while rumors persist of a race in Kazakhstan, though races in dictatorial oil states depend too much on the whims of the powerful to offer a stable basis for the calendar. There is still no sign of an agreement with the new track being built in Chile.

There will be complaints that MotoGP once again has four races in Spain - on the other hand, it has 14 races outside of Spain, more rounds than the 2016 WorldSBK calendar - but money and crowds dictate that all four Spanish races remain. Spain has an abundance of FIM-approved race tracks, a nation full of MotoGP-mad racing fans, and companies, circuits, and regional governments willing to pay the €5 million or so Dorna asks for the privilege of hosting a race. Until other countries and other circuits are willing to match that fee, MotoGP will continue to spend a lot of time in Spain.

The provisional 2017 MotoGP 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
16 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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Nicky Hayden to Replace Jack Miller at Aragon

Nicky Hayden is to make a temporary return to MotoGP. The American is to spend his weekend off between WorldSBK races filling in for the injured Jack Miller at the Aragon round of MotoGP. Hayden is to ride Miller's Marc VDS Honda RC213V, marking his first ride on a full MotoGP bike since he left Ducati at the end of 2013.

Miller has chosen to skip the Aragon round after suffering problems with a hand injury he picked up in a crash in Austria. The bones in his right hand have been slow to heal, and the intense MotoGP schedule since the series' return after the summer break has meant the injury has been getting worse. The stresses of braking and accelerating on a MotoGP bike have caused the fractures to reopen. The problem became so severe at Misano that the Australian was forced to withdraw from the race.

With three back-to-back flyaway races coming up after Aragon, Miller and his Marc VDS Racing team have decided to have the Australian sit out the Spanish race. This gives Miller five weeks for the bones in his right hand to heal before the flyaways, and the season finale at Valencia two weeks after that. 

Nicky Hayden will get a chance to ride a full MotoGP Honda on Michelin tires, something he missed out on at Silverstone. The American was on standby to replace Miller if the Australian was not passed fit due to cracked vertebrae. Miller was fit enough to ride at the British round of MotoGP, but his hand injury has since worsened. Hayden does have experience with Michelin tires, having raced on them up until the end of 2008, when the spec tire was introduced and the entire field switched to Bridgestone tires.


Nicky Hayden to replace Jack Miller at Motorland Aragon

Former MotoGP World Champion and current World Superbike front-runner Nicky Hayden will replace injured Jack Miller in the Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS squad for this weekend’s Grand Prix of Aragon in Spain.

Hayden will ride Miller’s Honda RC213V machine in this weekend’s 23-lap MotoGP encounter at the 5.1km Motorland Aragon track, which hosts round 14 of the World Championship.

Australian rider Miller is unfit to participate in this weekend’s action while he continues to recuperate from fractures in his right hand, which was an injury he first picked up in a high speed fall during the Warm-up session at the Red Bull Ring in Austria in mid-August.

Miller bravely raced to a 16th place finish in Silverstone’s British Grand Prix and then attempted similar heroics at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli last time out. Miller courageously rode in practice and qualifying in San Marino but the constant pain meant he withdrew ahead of the race.

Additional medical checks carried out immediately after the San Marino race revealed Miller has been riding with two fractures in his right hand.

The constant stress on the hand while riding has slowed the healing process and Miller, in consultation with HRC and the team has decided the most appropriate course of action is to miss this weekend’s Motorland Aragon encounter.

It is hoped the opportunity to take a lengthy period of rest and recuperation will give the 21-year-old the best chance possible of being fit to commence the gruelling flyaway triple-header in Japan next month.

Hayden brings a wealth of experience to Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS for this weekend’s race, which includes a podium in the inaugural Motorland Aragon race back in 2010.

The popular American started 216 races between 2003 and 2015 and claimed three victories and 25 other podium finishes. The highlight of the 35-year-old’s career was undoubtedly his World Championship success in 2006 when he defeated Valentino Rossi in a nail-biting final round decider in Valencia.

Tito Rabat will certainly be hoping to benefit from Hayden’s vast knowledge at a track where he has enjoyed tremendous success in the past.

The Spaniard hasn’t finished lower than second in the last three Moto2 races at Motorland Aragon, including a victory last year, and he is fully focused and determined to bounce back from a difficult race in San Marino.

Nicky Hayden:

“First of all I want to wish Jack a speedy recovery. He is a buddy of mine and he is a rider I believe in a lot, so I hope he can get healthy as quickly as possible to show the high potential we all know he has got. He just needs to get his body right so he can perform. This is an unusual experience for me because I’ve never been a stand-in rider before. But I have a good relationship with Honda and when the idea first came up they were behind it and Ten Kate gave me their blessing, so it is nice to go and help out another Honda team. For me it just a chance to go and have fun. I’d probably be riding motorbikes anyway and I would definitely be watching the race on TV, so I might as well show up and have some fun. I know MotoGP is not a place that’s always easy to have fun because the level is so high but I’ve got a lot to learn and it won’t be a walk in the park. I haven’t ridden the bike and there are different tyres and electronics but I’ve got a lot of experience and I get another shot at MotoGP, which is great for me personally. I want to thank Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS for the opportunity and Ten Kate and my sponsors who all made it happen and I will try and do them all proud."

Tito Rabat:

"At Misano I made another small improvement, even if that wasn't reflected in the results, but now we head to my home Grand Prix at Aragon. The Aragon track is one that I like and one at which I've enjoyed some success in the past, but this will be my first time there on a MotoGP bike so we have some work to do in practice. I'm motivated and I feel strong, so we will see how it goes."

Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal

"Obviously we'd have preferred Jack to be racing in Aragon, but it's the racing that is stopping the two fractures in his hand healing properly. It makes sense to have him sit out this race in a bid to recover ahead of the three overseas races, one of which is his home race in Australia. I'm looking forward to welcoming Nicky into the team and I want to thank Honda and Ten Kate for releasing him to ride this weekend. As a former MotoGP World Champion for Honda he brings with him a wealth of experience, which will be critical given the steep learning curve he faces with a new bike, new tyres and new electronics. I am sure he will do a stand up job for us. Tito had a tough time in San Marino, but his resilience is one of his strongest points and I fully expect him to bounce back and continue improving this weekend, on a track at which he's enjoyed a lot of success in the past."

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Subscriber Feature: The Future of Moto2

At the end of the 2018 Grand Prix season, the engine contract for the Moto2 class comes up for renewal. The existing Honda CBR600RR engine is in line to be replaced as the spec Moto2 engine, as Honda is set to stop selling the bike in Europe, and has no plans for a successor.

What does the future of the Moto2 class look like? With the end of the current contract two years away, Dorna has started the process of defining what is to replace the current Honda engine. The first order of business was to explore every possible option, and evaluate the positives and negatives. Nothing was out of bounds: options evaluated included continuing with Honda, opening up the engine supply to competing manufacturers, having a bespoke engine built, and even a return to two-stroke engines.

In the end, though, Moto2 will remain a single, spec engine supplier from a major manufacturer again. The Moto2 teams have threatened mutiny at any suggestion of opening the class to competition, from fear of spiraling costs. The current situation makes Moto2 extremely affordable: running a Moto2 team costs roughly half what it costs to race in Moto3.

Who is likely to replace Honda? All my inquiries through official channels met with failure, sources refusing to comment. IRTA Secretary Mike Trimby told me, "We are in the middle of planning for the future of Moto2. But as this involves sensitive commercial negotiations, I'm afraid I can't comment."

This is the first in what will become 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 article on the future of Moto2 here.

Scott Jones at Misano - Part 2


This was Ducati's home race, and they tested here in preparation. That did not pay off


The eyes of a winner. Lorenzo Baldassarri went on to win the Moto2 race at Misano


Lean angle. Mean angle


When is a teammate a teammate?


Dani Pedrosa is not currently avaiable to answer that question


Cal Crutchlow is crashing less. But he's still crashing on occasion


Special home helmets. De rigeur


Number twos


That was a championship-winning ride from Brad Binder


Old friendships do not fade


Alex Lowes continues to impress as a replacement. He's pretty much up to speed after two weekends


Moto2 is getting closer again. Which is good, because it needed to


Gigi Dall'Igna, Ducati's big brain


September in Italy: bikes, beaches, sun, heat, a sea of yellow


Maria Herrera blows hot and cold. It's tough running in your own team


No stopping the Samurai


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.

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