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Michelin Withdraws Both Rear Compounds in Argentina after Delamination In FP4

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

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

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

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between Michelin, Dorna, the safety officers of the FIM, and the teams, it was decided that both rear tires would be withdrawn, as they both used the same construction.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

Instead of the withdrawn tires, a new rear tire will be made available.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

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

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

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

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


Monza Round of World Superbikes Canceled, Estoril as Replacement?

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Calendar Update

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

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

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

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


Spec Winglets to be Mandatory in MotoGP from 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michele Pirro to Replace Danilo Petrucci at Argentina and Beyond if Necessary

The Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati team yesterday confirmed that Michele Pirro will substitue for Danilo Petrucci during the Italian's absence. Petrucci was forced to pull out of the Qatar Grand Prix after bone fragments from his the broken metacarpals in his right hand displaced while riding. Petrucci had broken his hand in a crash during testing at Phillip Island, and had tried to ride despite it being just 22 days after surgery, where normally the recovery periods is at least 4 to 6 weeks.

The announcement that Pirro will be replacing Petrucci came as a disappointment to many fans who had been hoping that Casey Stoner would step in to replace the injured Italian. However, speaking to the official website, Stoner made it perfectly clear that he had no intention of racing, and wanted to focus solely on testing. "Honestly my biggest goal is to try and get some tests out of the way, so that we can try and improve the bike underneath the Ducati riders and hope that we can move them forward to be even more competitive than we were in race 1," Stoner said. "This is the most important thing, so we have no thoughts of wildcards or replacements, or anything like this."

Speculation that Stoner might step in for Petrucci arose in part because a similar situation arose at the start of 2015, while Stoner was still a test rider for HRC. Then, Stoner had offered to replace Dani Pedrosa, who had pulled out to seek treatment for arm pump. Stoner rejected any comparison with early 2015, however. "Just because it's a similar situation to last year, I'm not approaching it in any way the same," he told The decision not to stand in for Pedrosa had been down to HRC. The decision not to race for Petrucci is entirely Stoner's own.

Pirro will stand in for Petrucci in Argentina, and until Petrucci is fully fit. That is likely to be Jerez at the earliest, after Petrucci had yet more surgery on his right hand to fix the fractured metacarpals. From the photo Petrucci posted on Twitter, it was clear that the damage is quite extensive.

The press release from the Pramac team announcing Pirro as a replacement appears below:

Michele Pirro will replace Danilo Petrucci

Michele Pirro will replace Danilo Petrucci on Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati Desmosedici Gp. The Ducati test rider will be present in Argentina for the second 2016 MotoGP round and will run until the return of Petrux who has undergone surgery on his right hand again on Monday

Grand Prix Commission Bans Winglets in Moto2 & Moto3

The War on Wings continues. At Qatar, the Grand Prix Commission agreed to ban winglets in the Moto2 and Moto3. The aerodynamic devices are banned immediately in Moto2, while they will be banned in Moto3 from 2017, as Mahindra have already fitted small winglets to their Moto3 machine to be used at some races this season. However, the ban on winglets for 2017 should stop development of them immediately.

The ban has no effect on MotoGP, however. There are powerful moves to try to ban the winglets in MotoGP, but they face resistance from the manufacturers. One of the conditions under which the factories accepted the switch to the common software was that the technical regulations would remain stable for the coming five years, the usual time period for technical regulations to last. However, the appearance of winglets and strakes on the MotoGP bikes has triggered fears of a spending war on aerodynamics between the factories.

Aerodynamics is particularly feared, as it is a field in which you can always obtain marginal gains by spending increasing amounts of money on CFD (computational fluid dynamics) modeling and wind tunnel work. Aerodynamics in motorcycle racing is relatively poorly developed, in part due to the regulations, but mainly because the dynamic nature of a motorcycle makes finding improvements that work in the many very different physical attitudes a bike can take on (leaned over for a corner, with the front wheel in the air while accelerating, with the nose dipping and the rear sliding under braking, etc) can be extremely difficult.

Any move to ban winglets must come from the manufacturers themselves. Sources have indicated to that Dorna, IRTA and the FIM would all welcome a ban, but are waiting for a proposal from the MSMA, the manufacturers association. The MSMA is reportedly split on on the use of winglets, according to veteran journalist Mat Oxley. Some factories favor them, some oppose them, with the names of the two sides easy to fill in.

Normally, the MSMA must reach a unanimous decision before submitting a proposal to the Grand Prix Commission, which the GPC is then obliged to accept. However, some members of the MSMA may choose to submit their own proposal to the GPC, which would then be subject to a free vote. That would go very much against the ethos of the MSMA, which has tried as much as possible to create a consensus on technical rules. Should some members of the MSMA decide that winglets should be banned, against the will of, say, Ducati and Yamaha, then such a ban would have a long lead time.

There is one opening for banning winglets in MotoGP, and that is through safety concerns. So far, MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge has not expressed a concern about safety, as the winglets are designed to break off before injuring someone. However, no testing procedure for this exists at the moment, something which will surely need to be addressed in the very near future. If the winglets are proven to be dangerous, then Dorna have the right to impose a ban immediately.

Below is the press release from the FIM with the decision of the GPC:

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 Vito Ipollito (President FIM), Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on 19th. March 2016 in Losail, made the following decisions:

Technical Regulations

Moto2 Class Quickshifter – Effective 01 May 2016

To reduce the incidence of missed gears it will be mandatory to use one of two approved brands of quickshifter. (Not one brand as previously agreed). It will also be compulsory to fit and use a load cell with data being supplied to the technical control data export.

Aerodynamic Wings in Moto3 and Moto2 Classes

The use of aerodynamic wings in these classes will be banned. For the Moto2 class the ban is effective immediately. For the Moto3 class, where some aerodynamic wings are currently being used, the ban is effective from 2017.

The Technical Director will continue to permit the use of fairing designs used to deflect water displaced by the front wheel that do not have an aerodynamic purpose.

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

MotoGP Tech Director Finds No Breach of Moto3 Rev Limits by Honda in 2015

MotoGP's Technical Director has rejected KTM's claim that Honda exceeded the official Moto3 rev limit during the 2015 season. In an official statement issued today, Danny Aldridge said that he and his technical team had examined the official rev limiter used in Moto3 and verified that it was operating correctly, and that although there had been overshoots of the rev limit, these were very small and very brief. 

Aldridge went on to confirm much of what had found when we investigated the issue at the end of February. Speaking to Peter Bom, crew chief of 2015 Moto3 world champion on a Honda Danny Kent, Bom explained that the issue had been about the way in which Honda had optimized the point at which the rev limiter cut in, and this is what had caused the confusion. The Honda approach was very different to that of KTM, meaning that riders who had switched from Honda to KTM in 2016 were reporting to KTM engineers that the Honda felt like it had been over-revving. 

In the statement put out by Aldridge, the Technical Director explained that a high revving single cylinder 250cc four stroke engine was hard to stop in its tracks once it reached the rev limit. The time it took between the moment the ECU identified that the rev limit had been breached and the point at which it started to cut the ignition was long enough for their to be a very brief overrun of the allowed rev limit. These were, however, only "modest and temporary".

The issue is to be discussed further at Qatar, in the Moto3 Class Working Group, which includes representatives of all of the manufacturers racing in Moto3. No doubt the finer details will be thrashed out there, when Honda and KTM will meet face to face to discuss their differences.

The official statement is shown below. 

Statement Of the Technical Director:
Moto3 Class Maximum Rev Limits

You will probably be aware that there was recent speculation in the specialist media that data existed which showed some Moto3 machines exceeding the maximum 13,500 rpm limit imposed in the regulations.

Frankly, this came as no surprise to us because with a single cylinder 4-stroke engine it is very difficult for the ECU to cut power at precisely the moment when the rev limit is reached. Depending on the signal used by the ECU to measure the revs there can be a period of a few milliseconds where target revs are exceeded by a small amount.

After further checks on the 2015 limiter we have established that there is nothing unusual or unexpected about how the rev limiter works and that the cut point is consistent on all engines. Nevertheless, moderate and temporary overshoots of the defined rev limit were identified.

All regulations for the Moto3 class are agreed within the Moto3 Class Working Group which includes delegates from all participating manufacturers. A meeting of this Group had already been convened to take place during the Qatar GP. The original purpose was to discuss future developments in this class. We will now add the rev limit issue to the agenda for this meeting.

There is no desire to reduce the point at which the limiter cuts power just to avoid data showing minimal overshoots. It may therefore be necessary to modify regulations to take account of inevitable overshoots but, of course, other solutions may also be considered by the working group.

Further information will be provided after the Qatar meeting.

Danny Aldridge

MotoGP Technical Director

Confusion Over Rules Means Casey Stoner Will Not Test at Qatar for Ducat

Ducati's MotoGP test plan has suffered a blow after the Bologna factory wrongly interpreted the testing rules in booking the Losail Circuit in Qatar for a private test on Sunday and Monday. The plan for the private test had been to have Casey Stoner test the Ducati Desmosedici GP (or GP16, as everyone else calls it) at Qatar on Sunday and Monday, after the official IRTA test had finished at the track. The benefits for Ducati would have been that Stoner would have been testing on a relatively clean track under broadly similar conditions as the other MotoGP riders, allowing a good back-to-back comparison of the feedback between the factory riders and Stoner.

Unfortunately, Ducati's plans are in clear breach of MotoGP's testing rules, and Race Direction has ruled that they cannot test. Testing at a circuit within fourteen days of an event is banned, as is clearly stated in the rules: MotoGP Class
B. Test Riders
b) Test riders may test at any circuit, at any time, using only their team’s Test Tyre Allocation. Tests are not permitted within the 14 days before a GP event at a circuit unless authorised by Race Direction.

Ducati initially told reporters there had been some confusion over whether the period of fourteen days was from the race, or from the start of practice, which in the case of Qatar is on Thursday, 17th March. However, even by the most liberal definition of the rules, Stoner would only have been able to test on the Sunday, and not the Monday. If the rule includes the first session of practice on the 17th March, then Stoner would have been unable to test altogether.

The alternative would have been to have Stoner testing during the official IRTA test at Qatar. That, however, would have been problematic. Stoner was slated to test the GP16, but with the bike still so new, parts and bikes are in short supply. Having Stoner test a GP16 would have meant taking at least one, and possibly two bikes away from the factory Ducati riders, Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone. As this is the last test before the start of the season, that would have been an undesirable distraction, and would have restricted their test program. Though Ducati values Stoner's input highly, he will not be racing this season, whereas Dovizioso and Iannone are charged with bringing Ducati their first victory since Stoner left the factory in 2010.

Though it is almost inconceivable that as well-run a factory as Ducati could make such an obvious error by booking a track for a private test during the period in which testing is banned, they are not alone. According to, Yamaha had scheduled a private test at Qatar with Colin Edwards on 8th and 9th March, well within the test ban period, with no leeway for interpretation.

Ducati's poor planning could have been corrected if Race Direction had been so inclined. Testing within fourteen days of a race is allowed with the express permission of Race Direction, and given the circumstances - a test directly after the full MotoGP grid had just done three days of testing at the circuit, meaning the advantage for Ducati was negligible - they may have been lenient. That, however, would have caused problems down the road for other factories.

Dorna Sports Handed Multi-million Euro Fines For Tax Evasion

The Spanish Supreme Court has imposed multi-million dollar fines on Dorna Sports and its executives for tax offenses arising out of the sale of shares in 2003 and 2004. The court found that Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta and COO & CFO Enrique Aldama had simulated the sale of shares in order to avoid paying income tax and to receive undeclared dividends from the shares the two men hold. 

The ruling of the Division of Administrative Litigation of the Supreme Court was that Dorna Sports S.L. sold shares to a separate company owned by the same partners (including Ezpeleta and Aldama) who were selling the shares. The share purchase was financed using debt held in part by the partners who owned the company buying the shares. Dorna claimed that this was a form of leveraged recapitalization, but the Supreme court disagreed with that assessment. In reality, the Supreme Court ruled, Dorna and its executives were pursuing a means of receiving hidden dividends.

The Supreme Court modified the fines originally imposed by a lower court, and reduced the seriousness of the offenses committed by the Dorna executives. The Supreme Court reduced the fine on Ezpeleta to €3.9 million from €5.1 million, while increasing that of Aldama to €2.7 million from €1.2 million. The Supreme Court reduced the seriousness of the offense as they found that although the share sales were deemed to be an attempt to conceal declarable income, they were not fraudulent in nature, reversing the decision of a lower court. Further fines are to be assessed for their failure to correctly assess and declare their tax liabilities resulting from the share sale.

Dorna Sports S.L. was also found to have infringed the tax code, improperly declaring the amounts of corporation tax to be paid by the company over the years 2003-2006 as a result of the sale of shares. Here again, the Supreme Court ordered the initial fine of €17.2 million to be recalculated, as they judged the infraction to be less serious than the lower court had ruled. 

In total, the Supreme Court imposed twelve separate sentences on Dorna, Ezpeleta and Aldama, imposing fines in each case. However, the fact that the Court ruled that the sale of shares had not been a fraudulent transaction meant that they viewed the infractions much less severely than the lower courts had.

Dorna Sports, and its executives Carmelo Ezpeleta and Enrique Aldama, today issued a rebuttal of the sentences. While accepting the authority of the court, the statement said the sale of shares should be regarded as a leveraged recapitalization. This is a common business practice around the world, where debt is used to purchase (or repurchase) shares, swapping equity for debt. In the statement, Dorna Sports asserted that this was a perfectly valid use of corporate law.

Dorna have promised to pursue further avenues to appeal against the sentences, pointing to dissenting opinions in the ruling. Three judges dissented, two of whom disagreed that the sale of shares had been a simulation, and one of whom believed that the offenses should be regarded as less serious, because there was no attempt at concealment.

The press release from Dorna is shown below:

Dorna Sports Announcement 

Despite holding the Decisions of the Courts in the highest regard, Dorna would like to express its disagreement with the content of the Decision of the Supreme Court regarding the classing of the “leverage recapitalization” transactions performed in 2003 and 2004, from the tax law perspective, as simulations. Transactions of this kind are commonplace in the economies of neighboring countries and are perfectly valid from the corporate law perspective. The fact that they are not to be classed as simulations is acknowledged by several Supreme Court justices, who have made known expressly their disagreement with the content of the judgements by expressing dissenting opinions. Dorna is analyzing the possible ways in which these judgements might be contested.   

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