Aleix Espargaro is to have surgery on the hand he injured at Le Mans. The Spaniard had a massive highside during FP3, falling heavily and injuring his hand. The scans he had at the time showed no sign of fractures, but examinations on Monday by Dr. Mir turned up a torn ligament in his right thumb, a condition more commonly known as skier's thumb.
Espargaro is to have an operation in Barcelona on Tuesday to fix the problem. The surgery will be performed a the Dexeus Clinic, and Dr. Mir is to update the media on Tuesday afternoon, after the operation. The aim is for Espargaro to race at Mugello, but the doctors are unwilling as yet to give an estimate for the recovery period. With just over a week to go to the first practice for Mugello, recovery time is very short indeed, especially as this is the thumb of his right hand, which is so important to motorcycle racers.
Below is the press release from Suzuki.
ESPARGARO TO UNDERGO SURGERY TOMORROW IN BARCELONA
Team Suzuki Press Office – May 18th
Aleix Espargaro will undergo surgery tomorrow morning in Barcelona, Spain after the injury he suffered on his right hand in the crash he had on Saturday in Le Mans.
The Spaniard went to Barcelona today to be examined by Doctor Xavier Mir, who has done several tests on Aleix’s hand and has finally diagnosed a rupture of the collateral ligament of the thumb of the right hand.
Dr. Xavier Mir:
“Aleix suffered a rupture in the ulnar collateral ligament of the metacarpophalangeal joint of the right thumb, confirmed by ultrasound and x-rays. This injury causes joint instability and therefore a surgical repair is necessary.”
The surgery will take place tomorrow at 11am at Clinica Dexeus in Barcelona. After 4pm the interested media will be received by Doctor Mir for a post-surgery update. The Team SUZUKI ECSTAR press office will also report the updates.
After the surgery Espargaro will stay in the hospital for the whole night, but at the moment it is impossible to anticipate the exact time he will need for recovery.
His objective is to be ready for the next GP of Italy at Mugello at the end of the month.
It is ironic that now we are getting into the meat of the motorcycle racing season, there should be so little news to speak of. But perhaps it is a matter of perspective: there is plenty of real news to be found in motorcycle racing, but it is to be found and read where you would expect to find it, in the middle of every race weekend. That is especially true now that MotoGP and World Superbikes have returned to a more fan-friendly schedule, the two world championships alternating weekends again, with BSB, the CEV and MotoAmerica filling in any gaps when they appear.
Then again, at this stage of the season, all of the focus is on the coming races, rather than next year. It is too early for silly season, especially as all the factory rides are locked up for 2016, and even Jorge Lorenzo's option to leave early removed. There are plenty of attractive seats to be filled for 2016: the contracts of both Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders are up at the end of the year, Cal Crutchlow is on a one-year contract, Yonny Hernandez has a one-year deal at Pramac, and the seats at Forward and Aspar are all being filled by riders with one-year contracts. Speculation about those seats will only start in earnest around mid-season, once team managers have half a season's worth of results to start drawing conclusions, and see who might be available to make the move up from Moto2.
That does not mean that nothing has happened in the past week or so. Here's a quick cast around the world of racing over the last seven days.
Viva El Rea!
Jonathan Rea already proved he was fast around Imola last year, when he did the double on the asthmatic Honda CBR1000RR. He underlined that once again last weekend, taking two wins from two races on the Kawasaki ZX-10R. The first was won in a six-lap dash, the first attempt at race one being red-flagged after David Salom crashed heavily, fracturing a wrist in the incident. Imola is a wonderful track, beautifully situated, but she can be a very cruel mistress indeed when you crash.
Rea's double win gets him off to the best start of a season since Neil Hodgson's championship season in 2003. He now has 240 points from a possible maximum of 250, having missed out on the top step only twice this season, at Phillip Island and at Aragon. But, to paraphrase the great American writer Gore Vidal, it is not enough to succeed, others must fail. Rea's lead is now 87 points over second place man Leon Haslam, due in no small part to the misfortune of Rea's rivals. Chaz Davies suffered a double technical failure at Imola, taking his deficit to Rea from a worrying 67 points to an almost insurmountable 117 points. Haslam could not follow the Kawasakis in race one, and crashed out in race two, adding another 37 points to his deficit. Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes is moving up the championship table, but at the same time, the gap to Rea is widening every race.
If Rea continues at this rate, the WSBK title could be wrapped up very early. If he keeps scoring points at the same rate, the championship could be over as early as Sepang, at the beginning of August. A little more misfortune for his rivals, and it could be all over by the middle of July, when WSBK heads to Laguna Seca. But, as Nicky Hayden likes to say, that's why they line up on Sunday, because you never know what will happen. The season ain't over till it's over.
The Pata of tiny feet?
An intriguing rumor emerged at the Imola WSBK round. According to Paolo Gozzi of the Gazzetta dello Sport, one of the most respected and well-informed journalists in the World Superbike paddock, Pata, the Italian snack maker, is considering abandoning Honda and cozying up to Yamaha when they return to WSBK in 2016. According to Gozzi, Pata are disappointed with the results Honda have brought them, with just two podiums for impressive Dutch rookie Michael van der Mark, while reigning World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli has not managed to finish any better than fifth.
The plan, Gozzi writes, is for Pata to leave Honda and back the Yamaha squad who will be returning to WSBK in 2016. The team running Yamaha's WSBK effort would then be the VR46 team owned by Valentino Rossi. Rossi already has a personal tie-in with Pata, who are personal sponsor to the Italian racing legend.
But Gordon Ritchie, another giant of the WSBK media pack, is reporting on the German website Speedweek that such stories are entirely unsubstantiated. Ritchie asked Carlo Fiorani, head of Honda Europe's racing program, about the possibility, and Fiorani dismissed the story out of hand, as a "typical non-story from the Italian press." Pata has a two-year contract with Honda, for 2015 and 2016, and no option to end it early. Furthermore, Pata is backing not just Honda's WSBK program. The Italian snack firm also has an interest in the Ten Kate Honda World Supersport team, as well as sponsoring the European Junior Cup, which is run with strong support from Honda, racing Honda CBR650F bikes. Stepping away from that is much more complex than just dropping support from Honda's World Superbike team.
Ducati's Mugello test – fast times and dislocated shoulders
While most of the rest of the MotoGP men went testing on the Monday after Jerez, the factory Ducati team took a week off, then went to Mugello for a private test. What were they testing there? According to the press release, they were testing electronics set ups and chassis parts introduced at Jerez, as well as preparing for the Mugello MotoGP round, which is due at the end of the month. The times set were impressive: on a track with only Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone circulating, alongside Michael Laverty testing for Aprilia, Iannone posted a 1'47.5 and Dovizioso a 1'47.8. Those are pretty much the times the two men set during qualifying last year, in the middle of a race weekend, with all the adrenaline that involves.
The times bode well for the Mugello race, where a Ducati win would be a dream result: an Italian rider on an Italian bike at the Italian Grand Prix. That could be difficult for Andrea Iannone, however. The Italian suffered a very heavy fall at Arrabbiata 2 towards the end of the test, dislocating his shoulder in the incident. He has provisionally been declared fit for Le Mans, but racing may be a little painful for Iannone.
Were Ducati using the test to try something new and secret? Probably not, though we have no real way of knowing. The GP15 is still a very new motorcycle, with lots of potential to be extracted. A couple of days to play with the bike, change set up and test what really works would be invaluable to the Ducati team. It will be a few more races before they start pursuing radical new directions again.
Dani dashes dreams
It may be old news, but worth commenting on nonetheless. Dani Pedrosa is finally to make his return at Le Mans, after pulling out of Jerez at the last minute. The Repsol Honda rider is finally satisfied with the recovery process after the surgery to remove the fascia from around his right forearm. He posted on his Repsol blog that he felt vindicated for taking the extra time to recover. But he and we will only really how his forearm holds up after Sunday's race. Le Mans has a lot of hard braking for hairpins, and few places to rest and recover, so it will be a real test of the surgery.
Pedrosa's return should finally quell the speculation and gossip surrounding a possible return of Casey Stoner to the Repsol Honda team. It should, but it won't. Stoner's fans still dream of a return, and news media know that Stoner MotoGP return stories sell newspapers and magazines, and drive internet page views. However unlikely a Stoner return may be, the chatter will continue until his daughter Alessandra starts her racing career...
Dani Pedrosa is to return to racing at the Le Mans round of MotoGP. His return brings to an end an extended absence following surgery to cure a persistent arm pump problem. Pedrosa missed three rounds in total, skipping Austin and Argentina, then making a last-minute decision to withdraw from the Jerez round.
That decision was regarded with some suspicion. Jerez is a track where Pedrosa has performed very strongly in the past, and missing a home GP is a major wrench of any MotoGP rider. However, after testing his forearm by riding a supermoto bike, Pedrosa was concerned that his arms were not recovering as hoped. Now, with two weeks more rest, Pedrosa believes his arms will be strong enough to withstand the stresses of racing a MotoGP bike.
There is a small irony in Pedrosa returning to action at Le Mans. The French circuit marked the beginning of one of the Spaniard's darkest periods in racing. Pedrosa fractured his right collarbone when he was knocked off his Repsol Honda by a hard-charging Marco Simoncelli. The subsequent surgery to plate the collarbone left Pedrosa suffering Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which caused numbness and weakness in his right hand, and made it very difficult for him to race. That problem was only solved by new surgery, which involved removing the screws from his plated collarbone, one of which was believed to be creating the TOS issue by temporarily blocking an artery when Pedrosa was held in a racing crouch. Before the issue was resolved, Pedrosa was giving serious consideration to retiring permanently from racing. The whole episode has left Pedrosa with a deep-seated aversion of surgery. It has also left him determined only to return to racing when he can do so at full fitness, and not before.
Pedrosa's return will bring to an end an uncomfortable period for HRC. Honda bosses had faced a barrage of questioning over both Pedrosa's extended absence and their decision to field Hiroshi Aoyama as Pedrosa's replacement, despite an offer to ride from Casey Stoner. Livio Suppo and Shuhei Nakamoto did their best to quash the gossip in a fractious press conference at Jerez, but question marks remained. The Repsol Honda team will now hope to turn its attention to racing.
The press release issued by the Repsol Media Service, covering its riders in both MotoGP and Moto3, appears below:
France welcomes Repsol riders on Pedrosa’s return to action
- Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to compete at Le Mans this weekend, where they have won for the past two seasons. In Moto3, Fabio Quartararo competes in home race, alongside Jorge Navarro and Maria Herrera.
- Marc Marquez has reached 40 races in MotoGP, in which he has taken 20 wins, a further 12 podiums, 24 pole positions and 2 titles.
- Marquez won last year at Le Mans and has been on pole the past three seasons (2 in MotoGP and 1 in Moto2) also taking his first career pole there at the 2009 125cc race.
- Dani Pedrosa has 4 victories at Le Mans (1 in MotoGP in 2013, 2 in 250cc in 2004 and 2005 and 1 in 125cc in 2003) plus 6 poles (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012).
The legendary Le Mans circuit hosts the fifth MotoGP round of the season this weekend. It will be a special event for the Repsol riders, as Marc Marquez will be further recovered from his finger injury for a race that he won last season. He will be accompanied by teammate Dani Pedrosa, who returns from forearm surgery. In Moto3, Fabio Quartararo will contest his first home GP.
The Bugatti circuit at Le Mans is a track at which Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have shone in recent years. They were winners in 2014 and 2013, respectively, and both have a host of wins, podiums and poles from previous seasons. In Moto3, Quartararo, Navarro and Herrera rode there for the first time last season in the FIM CEV Repsol, with Quartararo winning that event.
"Since Jerez we’ve been able to rest and now I’m feeling much stronger for this weekend. I visited Dr. Mir for a check up and my finger is definitely improving and healing well. I haven’t trained much this past week in order to give my finger a chance to restore back to 100%, which was our main goal. I like the Le Mans track, the weather is always changeable but last year it was really good and I took my first win in the MotoGP class, so let’s hope it’s the nice for us again this year!"
“I’ve been doing a lot of therapy in the past few weeks since the operation and I am improving step by step. I’m beginning to feel stronger and looking forward to getting back on the bike –after all, this is the best way to check the feeling after all the rehabilitation work. It will be good to get back to my team and catch up with them all after this time and of course to see all the fans in Le Mans, so let’s hope the weather is kind to us again like in 2014!”
"This is my home Grand Prix; although I live in Spain and it’s like a second home, it’s very special to ride in France and I will try to do the best I can. I know the track a little, although I’ve only ridden there once. It’s a ‘stop and go’ circuit with hard braking. We have been competitive at the first four races, so I am confident that we can go fast there as well –especially after the good work we did last week in testing."
"Le Mans is a track we rode at in the FIM CEV Repsol last year and it went well for us, but things change a lot in the World Championship. We will have to be focused and work well from the start. The test we did last Tuesday allowed us to take a step forward, so we will arrive there more confident and I hope that we continue improving at this race. We worked a lot on the setup and I was able to ride fast, so we will try to be up there with the lead group again and progress further."
"I know the track fairly well because of the race last year. Arriving there with references is positive. I was fast, but we can’t let up and will have to push from the first session, because this is the World Championship. In France you don’t know if it will rain or not, but our work so far this season and at the test last Tuesday mean that I believe we will be ok. I have spent a few days at home and my foot is better, so we will push hard to have a good weekend."
Ducati could have their concessions removed a year early. The manufacturers' association, MSMA, are proposing to introduce the concession point system, which was due to start in 2016, to apply from this year. That would mean that Ducati would be forced to race in 2016 against Honda and Yamaha under the same regulations, including frozen engines, seven engines a year instead of nine, and testing limited to official tests.
The success of the Ducati Desmosedici GP15 has shown up a gap in the regulations. The system of concessions allowed to manufacturers without a recent win has universally been hailed as a success, allowing Ducati to catch up with Yamaha and Honda, and Suzuki to already close the gap. However, as the rules are due to change in 2016, the system of concessions will also change. Under the system which applies this year, a factory which has not had a dry win in the last three years gets extra fuel, a soft rear, 12 engines instead of 5, freedom from the engine freeze, and freedom to test with factory riders. From 2016, all of the teams will have 22 liters of fuel and will be using the same tires, and so there will be fewer concessions. Factories will get 9 engines instead of 7, not be subject to an engine freeze, and be allowed to test with factory riders.
The system for calculating when a factory loses concessions will also change. A new system of concession points will be introduced for 2016, awarding 3 points to a win, 2 points for a second and 1 point for a third. If a factory with concessions racks up 6 concession points, in whatever combination, they will lose concessions. The unlimited testing will stop immediately, and for the following season, they will have only 7 engines and be subject to the engine freeze.
However, that leaves a gap which would allow Ducati to continue with concessions for 2016, despite having booked an awful lot of success with the GP15 this year. If Ducati do not win in the dry this year, then they would start 2016 still with more engines, free testing and the ability to develop the engine through next season, until they scored a total of 6 concession points. With Andrea Dovizioso's three second places in the first three races, and Andrea Iannone's third place at Qatar, Ducati would already have scored 7 concession points had the 2016 system already been in effect.
At the MSMA meeting at Jerez, the manufacturers discussed applying the points system in 2015, to affect concessions for the 2016 season. This would mean that Ducati would lose their concessions for 2016, having already scored more than 6 points this season.
Speaking to MotoMatters.com, Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo explained the situation. "There is some confusion, because we are overlapping two different sets of rules. What is clear is that as the MSMA, we said we start these concessions last year, basically. But at the end it is something we think we should keep, because there is much interest for KTM, Aprilia, Suzuki, and it is good for the sport, so we all agree that we should try to keep this kind of advantage for the manufacturers which are rookies, and which are not competitive."
The overlap between the two sets of rules is what was causing the problem, Suppo said. "This is clear, if you do six concession points in 2016, in 2017, you will be without concessions. Then we didn't think for 2016! Our opinion is that if this will work for 2016 to 2017, it should be the same for 2015 to 2016. That's a normal understanding because the spirit of the rule is, we help manufacturers who are struggling."
Unsurprisingly, Ducati were not in favor of the change, pointing to the fact that there is already a system in place, and the FIM had already clarified the rules. "The problem is that Ducati start to say, we need to win three dry races this year, because to lose the tire, we need to win races. But this is another story!" Suppo said. "Then they say, we need to win one race, because there is an FIM press release which speaks about one win, before we were speaking about podiums. Then suddenly, Mike Trimby (of IRTA) proposed the concession points. Probably it's better, because it's more clear. We agreed that it works, everybody agreed that from next year, it will be like that. Honestly, why not from this year?"
Suppo pointed out that the intention of the rule was to help manufacturers who are struggling to be competitive catch up with the more successful factories. Applying those rules to Ducati, who are clearly competitive, seems to go against the spirit of the rules. "If the spirit of the rule is to help people who are struggling, sorry, when I talk with Gigi (Dall'Igna) at the meeting and told him Gigi, you have done a very good job, but don't pretend you are not competitive and need help next year! Because in theory, they can win this championship." Suppo told us.
It wasn't just a question of being fair to the other factory teams, Suppo said, allowing Ducati another year of concessions would be unfair on the satellite Honda and Yamaha teams. "It's also in my opinion not fair for the other manufacturers, and also for satellite teams that pay a lot of money for our bikes and for Yamaha's bikes, and then they have many Ducatis in front of them. Forget about the factory team, but also for Lucio [Cecchinello of LCR Honda], for Marc VDS, they have a factory bike, why should they fight against another factory bike which has some advantage? It's difficult for them to survive. So it's not just difficult for other manufacturers. And the fact that even Suzuki says that if you get six concession points this year, then we lose the concession."
At the moment, this is still in the discussion stage, and has not been accepted into the rules. For that to happen, it must first be put forward by the MSMA, and then put to a vote by the members of the Grand Prix Commission. Obviously, the proposal will not have the unanimous backing of all of the MSMA members, as Ducati are still clearly against it. That will not matter, however, if the proposal is accepted by a simple majority in the GPC.
Marc Marquez has already lost one of his engines from his allocation of five for the season. The engine in the bike Marquez was forced to park against pit wall during qualifying at Austin can no longer be used, Marquez admitted to MotoMatters.com.
The engine problem occurred during Marquez' qualifying run at the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin. As Marquez was about to start a hot lap, he saw a warning light come on on the dashboard of his Honda RC213V. The world champion had been told by his HRC engineers that if he saw that light, he was to stop as quickly as possible, which he duly did. The problem forced him to sprint back to his pit box, leap on his spare bike, and race out of the pits for a last-gasp dash for pole. It resulted in a spectacular lap, which gave him pole position, from which he went on to take a convincing win.
The engine from that bike was taken from Austin straight to Japan, where HRC engineers examined it as best they could, without breaking the seals. After the press conference at Jerez, I asked Marquez if he had heard whether the problem was with the engine or the gearbox. "I don't know," Marquez replied, "but we cannot use it any more."
That leaves Marquez with just four healthy engines with which to complete the season. That should normally not be a particular problem. Last year, Alvaro Bautista lost two RC213V engines in the space of four races, leaving him with three engines to complete the season. Bautista completed the last ten races of the season using just two engines. Marquez' engines should be reliable enough to get him to the end of the season without being forced to take an extra engine, and incur the penalty of starting the race from pit lane. But it will mean that his crew will have to be slightly more conservative, in terms of engine wear and revs, saving laps from time to time. It also means that Marquez cannot really afford to lose another engine.
Jorge Lorenzo is to remain with Yamaha for the 2016 season. The Spaniard had an option to leave the Movistar Yamaha team at the end of 2015, but has decided not to exercise it, and will stay with Yamaha for next year. The Movistar Yamaha team also had an option to end the two-year deal a year early, but Yamaha Racing director Lin Jarvis told the MotoGP.com website that both the team and Lorenzo and decided to see the contract through to the end.
The decision to continue the partnership will put an end to speculation which had arisen in the paddock in the past few weeks. Rumors had started that Lorenzo was considering a switch to Ducati for next season. The newly competitive GP15 has made the Ducati a much more attractive option for riders looking to switch, and Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna is known to be an admirer of Lorenzo. Dall'Igna worked with Lorenzo extensively when the Spaniard was riding for Aprilia in 250s.
Accommodating Lorenzo would have been difficult. Both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone have a contract with Ducati for next season, with no option to terminate the deals early. Given the competitiveness of both riders, there is little reason for Ducati to go searching elsewhere for riders.
Dani Pedrosa will not be racing at the Jerez round of MotoGP. Despite the optimism displayed by Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo earlier this week, a test ride on a supermoto bike showed that Pedrosa's arm is not recovered sufficiently for him to be able to ride.
The Spaniard announced the news on his blog on the Repsol website. He wrote there that he had ridden a supermoto bike to test his arm, and that though the riding had gone well, it gave problems after riding, Pedrosa describing it as "not 100%". Having already missed two races, Pedrosa believes it is better to miss this race as well, and try to come back fully fit at Le Mans, two weeks after Jerez. The priority is to make a full recovery and come back competitive for the rest of the season, rather than trying to race at any cost, and risk creating a bigger problem.
The Jerez race was always going to be a big ask. The recovery period for the surgery Pedrosa had - a fasciectomy of the right arm, to cure arm pump - was estimated at five weeks, and Jerez comes just a week too early.
With Pedrosa out, that leaves Hiroshi Aoyama to take his place in the Repsol Honda team again this weekend. At the moment, Marc Marquez is intending to ride, but with a shattered and plated proximal phalanx in his left little finger, riding will be painful. The plan is for Marquez to assess his fitness on Friday, and make a decision from there.
It appears that both Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa will attempt to ride at Jerez this weekend. Dani Pedrosa will get his first chance to ride a MotoGP bike after having radical surgery to cure a persistent arm pump problem, while Marc Marquez has just had surgery to plate a broken proximal phalanx in the little finger of his left hand. Speaking to the Italian website GPOne.com, HRC Team Principal Livio Suppo said that he expected both riders to be present at Jerez, and to test their fitness during practice on Friday.
Suppo told GPOne.com that Marquez had phoned him after the crash, and told him not to worry, he would be at Jerez and ready to race. Speaking to the official MotoGP.com website, Dr. Xavier Mir, who operated on Marquez' finger, confirmed that. After breaking his finger in a collision with another rider, Marquez had been taken to hospital, where a very slim, customized titanium plate was fixed to the proximal phalanx - the bone in the finger closest to the hand - to fix the bone, which was fractured into several fragments, some of which were displaced. Marquez is now undergoing therapy and treatment to remobilize the joint and suppress inflammation, and Dr. Mir was convinced that Marquez would try to race. He would not be at 100%, Dr. Mir added, but riders are capable of taking extra motivation from such situations. With the advent of seamless gearboxes, the left hand is not used very much - only at the start, and in and out of pit lane - but the two outer fingers are very important in terms of grip strength.
As for Pedrosa, the Spaniard is due to test his arms riding a supermoto bike later this week, before heading to Jerez for the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend. Both Pedrosa and Marquez will assess their fitness during practice on Friday, making a final decision on racing based on the outcome of practice. Hiroshi Aoyama will also be on hand, should Pedrosa still not be fit to race. Aoyama has already substituted for Pedrosa at Austin and Argentina, and will be on hand for the test on Monday, where the MotoGP riders will work on their 2015 machines, while the factory test riders will be giving the 2016 Michelin tires another trial at another circuit.
The decision on whether to ride or not will be easier for Pedrosa than it will be for Marquez. Pedrosa is already 56 points behind the championship leader Valentino Rossi, making a shot at the title look extremely unlikely. His aim for the rest of the year will be to challenge for as many wins and podiums as he can. As reigning champion, the pressure on Marquez to race will be much larger. Marquez is 30 points behind Rossi in the title race, which is not as worrying as it could be given the fact that there are still 15 rounds left in the season. With two competitive Ducatis, and the possiblity of both Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo being competitive, along with stronger challenges from Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda and the Tech 3 pairing of Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith, the opportunities to make up points are much greater than they have been in recent years. It is key for Marquez to manage the points gap to Rossi as best as he can at this stage in the season.
Marc Marquez has broken a finger in his left hand in a dirt track training crash. The reigning world champion fell heavily, suffering a displaced fracture of the proximal phalange in the little finger of his left hand. This means that the bone between the hand and the first knuckle was broken, and the two parts of the bone moved.
Marquez was taken immediately to the Dexeus Institute in Barcelona, where Dr Xavier Mir, who performs surgery on many of the top MotoGP and WSBK riders, operated on the Spaniard. The bone was put together again and then fixed with a titanium plate. Marquez is due to start functional recovery within 24 hours.
The press release issued by Honda is strangely hesitant about Marquez' prospects of racing at Jerez. The press release says, in rather unconventional wording, that Marquez participation at Jerez "has not been ruled out." The aim for Marquez will be to ride, but the injury sustained is a particularly difficult one. Wheeless' Textbook of Orthopaedics describes fractures of the proximal phalange as "potentially the most disabling fractures in the hand". Full recovery for normal patients is 4 to 6 weeks. In motorcycle racer terms, that's 2 to 3 weeks.
The only positive from this injury is that it is on his left hand, in the little finger. It is the least used of the fingers, though Marquez' style is to grip the bars with the fingers on the grips, rather than with the little finger off the grip, as some others like to do. No doubt that Marquez will do all he can to try to race at Jerez, but it is far from certain he will do so. With Marquez already 30 points down to championship leader Valentino Rossi, Marquez cannot really afford another zero points in the championship, he needs all the points he can get. A decision on participation will only have to be made before FP4 on Saturday afternoon, giving Marquez another day to assess his condition.
Marquez' injury puts the Repsol Honda team in a difficult situation for Jerez. Dani Pedrosa is not yet confirmed as racing at the Andalusian circuit, and if Marquez is forced to miss the race as well, HRC would need to field two replacement riders. Though the most obvious choice for Honda would be test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi, the controversy surrounding Casey Stoner's offer to race for Dani Pedrosa at Austin and Argentina will no doubt see his name be put forward once again.
With both riders likely to undergo medical checks on the Thursday, we may not know who is racing for the Repsol Honda team until Friday morning at the earliest, and Saturday afternoon at the latest.
Below is the press release on Marquez' crash and injury:
Marc Marquez undergoes successful operation on little finger fracture
Repsol Honda rider operated on this afternoon to treat fracture to little finger of left hand, suffered while training dirt track. His participation in the Spanish Grand Prix has not been ruled out.
Reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez has been successfully operated on this afternoon by Dr. Xavier Mir, Head of the Unit for Hand and Upper Extremities Pathology at the Hospital Universitario Quiron Dexeus in Barcelona.
Dr. Mir commented after the surgery that Marquez had “attended the casualty department of the Hospital Universitario Quiron Dexeus having suffered a crash in training this morning. The patient presented a deformity to the little finger of his left hand and a subsequent X-Ray showed a fracture of the proximal phalanx, with displacement. Therefore, we decided to treat the injury -as we would in the case of any other patient- by fixing a titanium plate to his finger. This will allow us to initiate functional recovery after 24 hours and give him a chance of racing at Jerez.”
Can you ever have too much motorcycle racing? You can if the amount of racing over one weekend actually exceeds the number of hours in each day. That was pretty much the case last weekend, when we MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina, World Superbikes – including World Supersport, FIM Superstock 1000, the European Superstock 600 Championship, and the European Junior Cup – at Assen, British Superbikes at Brands Hatch (the very short, very fast Indy circuit, not the longer GP layout), the second round of the inaugural MotoAmerica series at Road Atlanta, and the 24 hour race at Le Mans in France. Looking beyond motorcycle road racing, there was also the fourth round of the MXGP motocross world championship at Trentino in Italy, and a Formula One race at Bahrain.
Although the constraints of long seasons mean that there will always be clashes, this was a little ridiculous. Racing series are not completely free to set their calendars as they wish – they are tied down by a host of factors such as track availability, the weather, other events organized at the circuits, local government permission and many, many others – this weekend was one of the more spectacular scheduling SNAFUs. Let us hope this can be avoided next year.
For the upcoming weekend, the calendar is much more limited. The FIM Repsol CEV championship – what we used to know as the Spanish championship – has its first race at Portimao in Portugal. The field is as varied as ever, with riders from all over Europe and Asia, as well as an Australian and an American in Moto3, an even more varied field in Moto2 – including exotica such as the Vyrus, ridden by British youngster Bradley Ray – and Barcelona-based American rider Kenny Noyes defending his title in the Superbike class. Their Italian counterpart, the CIV championship, also kicks off this weekend with their first races at Misano. Both series will be streamed live, CEV on their Youtube channel, and the CIV via a specialist Italian motorsports channel called Sportube.
World Superbike calendar for 2016 and beyond
The German website Speedweek had a lot of news on WSBK this weekend, after their correspondent Ivo Schützbach spoke to Dorna's head of WSBK, Daniel Carrera. For next year, the WSBK calendar looks set to be very similar to 2015, with all of the current tracks except for Jerez already having a contract for next year or longer. Carrera also announced that Monza is to make a return for 2016, bringing the total number of WSBK rounds in Italy to three. That could even rise to four: Dorna today announced that Vallelunga is to serve as a reserve circuit for 2015 and 2016. Should circumstances prevent one of the races not happening this year or next, then Vallelunga will take its place. The press release explicitly stated that they did not expect to lose a race, but after the problems with India and Russia, and a little longer ago, the failure of the Balatonring to stage a race, having a reserve circuit is a good idea. Russian SBK organizer Yakhnich still has a contract to run the Russian round for the foreseeable future, but have neither a circuit nor the funds to do so. Whether Vallelunga would take the place of a Russian race is uncertain.
The more intriguing announcement by Carrera was that World Superbikes intends to return to India in 2017. The previously restrictive customs regulations have been dropped, making it possible to hold a race there without lodging a security fee covering the full value of all of the equipment shipped in and out of the country. There are still some hurdles to be taken, but it seems like that WSBK will be racing at the Buddh International Circuit in 2017. If World Superbikes goes there, then MotoGP is sure to follow, in 2018 at the earliest. India and Thailand are key markets for the motorcycle manufacturers.
Melandri's misery to end?
The idea that Marco Melandri should leave World Superbikes and make a return to MotoGP has turned out even worse than almost everyone expected, Aprilia and Melandri included. The Italian is deeply uncomfortable on the Bridgestone tires, and Aprilia's RS-GP bike, and has circulated consistently several seconds off the pace, and a second or more off his teammate, Alvaro Bautista. The relationship between Melandri and Aprilia is exploring new depths, with neither side having anything positive to say about the other.
At Assen, serious rumors started emerging about a possible return to World Superbikes in 2016 for the Italian. Melandri's name is being linked with Yamaha, who are due to make a full return to the series next year. Though officially, Yamaha are refusing to confirm they will be in WSBK next year, their Superstock and national programs are being stepped up ready for a full-on assault in 2016.
The reason for Melandri's name coming up is that Andrea Dosoli, who has worked with Melandri at Hayate, Yamaha and BMW, is tasked with coordinating Yamaha's racing efforts with the all-new YZF-R1. Dosoli is rumored to be keen on another link up with Melandri, according to some sources in the WSBK paddock.
Just how much truth there is to the rumors remains to be seen. Melandri will be 33 this year, and if his poor season continues, question marks will linger over how much longer he has. He can be fast on a competitive bike, but if the bike needs development, will Melandri be willing to put in the work?
It is not as if Yamaha would not have any other options. It is likely that at least one relatively competitive MotoGP rider will be out of a ride at the end of this year, making the switch to Yamaha in WSBK a strong option. There will be riders in BSB who may be suitable, such as the pairing of Josh Brooks and Broc Parkes currently racing for Milwaukee Yamaha. And Dorna would love to have a top American in the series, with plenty of talk at Austin of Cameron Beaubier, and even Jake Gagne. The line for a shot at the Yamaha R1 ride will be very long indeed.
Oh Dani boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling...
Will Dani Pedrosa be back at Jerez? As of this moment, it is uncertain, but the signs are looking positive. Pedrosa wrote on his blog on the Repsol website that his recovery is going well, and that he has already had some of the stitches removed. According to Catalan reporter Damià Aguilar, Pedrosa has been doing strength exercises with his right arm, and is due to try to ride a motorcycle for the first time this week, to see if he is capable. A decision about actually racing at Jerez has not yet been made, and is likely to be left right until the last minute. If he does not race, then Hiroshi Aoyama is likely to fill in for him again. Aoyama will be present in Jerez anyway, as there is a test on the Monday after the Jerez race.
EBR – Racing or bust?
The sad demise of Erik Buell's latest motorcycle operation, EBR, has left many people with an uncertain future. Not least for the many employees at the factory building the EBR1190RX. But it also raised a question mark over the future of the World Superbike team. At Assen, neither Larry Pegram nor Niccolo Canepa – who has been outstanding on the EBR – had any idea what their future would hold.
As of right now, the future remains unclear. Speaking to GPOne.com, Canepa was uncertain whether he would be racing at the next round at Imola or not. He heard nothing from EBR, after Larry Pegram, who also runs the team, had flown back to the US. Plans are being made in the background for a worst-case scenario, should the team also fold, with Canepa looking around for a ride. With Nico Terol out through injury, after crashing heavily at Assen, Canepa could take the place of the Spaniard, at least temporarily. Given his experience with the Ducati Panigale 1199, he would make the ideal replacement.