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The FIM is taking further steps to contain the cost of aerodynamics. The banning of winglets decided earlier this year was made on two grounds: removing the danger of being struck by a protruding wing, and reducing the potentially astronomical cost of an aerodynamic war beginning. Banning winglets would prevent the first issue from being a problem, but would do nothing to address the second point. Indeed, with the aerodynamics cat well and truly out of the bag, the factories have already hinted that their focus would switch to fairing design.
The Grand Prix Commission have moved to stop that war starting before it begins. From 2017, factories will have to homologate fairing and front mudgard designs, with only one upgrade to each allowed per season. The idea behind it is to allow factories to continue to develop aerodynamics, but to limit the amount of time and money spent in search of wheelie prevention.
The rules do leave one loophole open, however. The aerodynamic homologation rules apply to each rider separately. In theory, each rider on a Yamaha, Honda, or Ducati could start with a different fairing, the results of which could be assessed by the factory to help develop the next homologated version of the fairing for use in mid-season.
Theoretically, this could mean that Ducati could start the season with 8 different fairing designs, one for each of the different bikes on the grid. They could then take this data and improve the fairing design for each individual Ducati rider, supplying 8 different upgrades. This would of course be prohibitively expensive, but there is a chance that some factories (especially Ducati, who are convinced of the benefits of aerodynamics) could phase development, providing early updated versions of fairings to satellite teams, to assess performance before rolling them out to the factory teams.
The allowance of an aerodynamics package per rider also recognizes the different needs of riders. For example, Dani Pedrosa has abandoned wings altogether this season, while Marc Marquez has pushed for ever larger wings. This new rule would allow the two riders to run different fairings with different aerodynamic characteristics.
Airbags in Leathers
The Grand Prix Commission also introduced a rule making airbags in rider leathers compulsory from the 2018 season. This has been made possible by the main manufacturers of airbags, Alpinestars and Dainese, agreeing to license their technology to other manufacturers. That means more leather manufacturers will be able to use airbags without having to develop the complex electronics and sensor systems which are required for the airbags to trigger correctly.
The final announcement of interest in the minutes of the GPC meeting is the putting out to tender for a spec electronics system in Moto2. With the contract to supply engines to Moto2 coming up for renewal at the start of 2019, this is opening new opportunities for engine suppliers.
The change of engine suppliers also allows Dorna and IRTA to get a tighter grip on the electronics. One of the constant problems which Moto2 has faced has been the fact that the HRC kit ECU has been so easy to hack, mainly because the kits is in widespread use in 600cc racing series around the world, and a lot of people have had an opportunity to crack the system and change the parameters. That has been made more difficult in recent years, with a more secure upgrade introduced at the beginning of last season. Despite that, there are paddock rumors that the new system has also been cracked, and that teams are running the Moto2 engines beyond the supposed limits set by the HRC ECU.
Having a bespoke spec system should prevent that. Having control over the Moto2 ECU software should allow Dorna and IRTA to clamp down more effectively on cheating in Moto2.
However, the call for tender for the new spec ECU reveals that Dorna expect electronics to become more sophisticated in Moto2. The system will be required to manage two injectors per cylinder for up to four cylinders, allow ride-by-wire, and supply various engine and chassis strategies. The named requirements include gearshift management (i.e. quickshifter management), traction control, wheelie control, launch control, engine braking and torque maps.
The change to a more sophisticated electronics package should make the transition from Moto2 to MotoGP a little easier. At the moment, the electronics in Moto3 are far more sophisticated than Moto2, meaning riders go backwards before advancing on to the (even with spec software) much more complex strategies of MotoGP. The call for a more complex spec ECU and software package should provide a better middle ground between Moto3 and MotoGP.
The FIM press release announcing the changes is shown 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 Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on Saturday 15th October 2016, made the following decisions:
MotoGP Class Aerodynamic Evolution – Effective 2017
In the interests of cost saving there will be a limit on the number of upgrades that a manufacturer can make to the design of their fairing or front mudguard during the season.
Initial designs will be homologated by the Technical Director at the first event of the season. Thereafter, only one upgrade of the fairing and one upgrade of the front mudguard is permitted in that season. The restriction will apply “per rider” and not per make of motorcycle.
Riders’ Leathers – Effective 2018
In an effort to improve rider safety, leathers used by riders must be equipped with an approved inflatable airbag device. (This proposal was supported by all current suppliers in their safety working group).
Appointment of Liqui-Moly
The Commission approved the re-appointment of Liqui-Moly as the official supplier of oil for the Moto3 and Moto2 classes for the three years 2018-2020.
Tender for Moto2 ECU Supply
The Commission agreed that an invitation to tender for the supply of an ECU for the Moto2 class should be announced. The tender will open on 16th October and close on 9th November and be for a three-year period 2019-2021.
A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on:
The final piece in the 2017 MotoGP rider puzzle has been slotted into place. Today, the Pull & Bear Aspar team announced that they have signed Karel Abraham to ride for them for 2017.Abraham will replace Yonny Hernandez, and will race a Ducati Desmosedici GP15.
Hernandez had initially been expected to keep his ride for 2017, but rumors that Aspar was unhappy with the performance of Hernandez had been swirling since mid-season, becoming more concrete at Aragon. Hernandez is currently 22nd in the MotoGP standings, and last of the regular MotoGP riders. He has scored just 17 points in 15 races, while teammate Eugene Laverty has racked up 71 points and is 12th in the championship, and second satellite Ducati.
There can be no doubt that Abraham's signing is connected to the financial health of the team. Aspar has struggled financially since the deal with Malaysian energy drink Drive M7 fell through at the beginning of the 2015 season, in response to a trademark dispute. Aspar has spent frugally in MotoGP, and signing Yonny Hernandez was a way of ensuring cash flow into the team. Hernandez bought money from personal sponsors, as well as getting support from Dorna as the the only South American rider on the grid. Abraham's money will replace the money the team loses from Hernandez.
The plight of Aspar underlines the difficulties satellite teams face as the grid has become more competitive. Sponsors demand some level of success for their investment, but success has become increasingly hard to come by. A few years ago, there were the factory Hondas and Yamahas, and perhaps Casey Stoner on the Ducati to beat, meaning that if they got lucky, a satellite team had a shot at a podium, and should be capable of competing for top tens, and even top sixes.
Now, with the Yamahas, Hondas, Suzukis and Ducatis competitive, the Aprilias improving, and the prospect of KTM entering the class, just finishing inside the top ten is hard enough. And to do that, they face competition from long established teams with strong factory backing, such as Tech 3 Yamaha, Pramac Ducati, and LCR Honda. Top tens are difficult, but even just scoring points can be tough, as Yonny Hernandez has demonstrated.
The new financial settlement from 2017 was supposed to help alleviate situations such as these. While receiving approximately €2 milion per rider a season from IRTA goes a long way towards running a MotoGP team, it still leaves the team with another €4 million to find. For cash-strapped teams such as Aspar, that remains a lot of money.
2017 MotoGP rider line up and contract duration:
|Monster Tech 3 Yamaha|
|Marc VDS Honda|
Aspar Press release:
Karel Abraham returns to MotoGP with the Aspar Team
Czech rider to team up with Álvaro Bautista in 2017 on board a Ducati GP15
Karel Abraham will be an Aspar Team rider in the MotoGP World Championship next season. The Czech rider will pilot a Ducati GP15 on his return to MotoGP, where he already boasts five years of experience, lining up alongside new team-mate Álvaro Bautista.
Abraham began his World Championship career in the 125cc class, making his debut in the Spanish Grand Prix back in 2005. In 2007 he moved up to the 250cc class and then enjoyed his greatest success in Moto2, scoring a memorable victory in the final round of the 2010 season at Valencia.
That win proved to be his last appearance in the intermediate class as he moved up to MotoGP for 2011, riding a Ducati to fourteenth place in the championship for two successive seasons. Abraham scored his best MotoGP result on the Ducati, which he guided to seventh place at Jerez and Silverstone in 2011 and at Valencia in 2012.
After three further seasons in MotoGP, at the end of 2015 Abraham announced he was switching to the World Superbike series, where he has spent this season. The final round of the WSBK season on 30th October in Qatar will mark the end of his adventure in the production series as he prepares to make his return to MotoGP in 2017.
Jorge Martínez “Aspar”: “We are happy to be joined by Karel Abraham for next season. He is a new rider for us, he is still young but he has a lot of experience: he has raced in every category of the World Championship and in MotoGP already on a Ducati. I hope and want to be able to give him a competitive crew and bike so that he can show his worth.”
Karel Abraham: “I am really pleased to come back to MotoGP. I started to work on this goal as soon as I knew there was a possibility. I am really happy: coming back to Ducati, which is my favourite bike, and also thinking about my first season with them, which was my best season. It’s an honour to be a part of this team, which is so famous in the paddock, so professional and so good, and together with Ducati I believe we can make a very good connection, I’m really looking forward to that.”
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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.
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.
“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 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.
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:
|15-16 November||MotoGP||Valencia (post race)|
|30 January-1 February||MotoGP||Sepang|
|15-17 February||MotoGP||Phillip Island|
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.