Latest News

Post Le Mans News Round Up: 22 Rounds From 2022, Team Shake Ups, And Ducati's Future Line Up

With the three overseas* races out of the way and MotoGP back in Europe, the thoughts of the teams, riders, and series organizers are starting to turn to the future. At Le Mans, there was much discussion in team trucks and among the organizers. And as a consequence, there was a stream of paddock rumor, interviews, and news articles on what's coming up for the future. Here's a round up of recent news.

Calendar expanding to 22 races

In 2016, Dorna signed a five-year contract with the teams and factories concerning regulations, the number of races, and team support. In it, the maximum number of races on the calendar was fixed at 20, and the MotoGP grid set at a maximum of 24.

Negotiations are set to start for the next contract period, from 2022 through 2026, some time next year, and German language publication Speedweek is reporting that there are changes on the horizon, changes confirmed by reports I also heard at Le Mans. The biggest change is the expansion of the maximum number of races, from 20 to 22.

It should not be difficult to find 22 circuits willing to host a race. Finland is set to join the series next year, once the Kymiring is completed. Indonesia could also have a circuit ready for 2021, with work continuing on the Mandalika circuit on the island of Lombok. Mexico City is still keen to host a round of MotoGP, while there are also persistent rumors of Brazil hosting a race at a circuit close to Rio de Janeiro.

The expansion of the racing calendar will come at the expense of testing. The current plan is to restrict the preseason testing calendar to just one test, at Sepang, instead of the current two (Sepang and Qatar). The teams would be happy to have the Sepang test canceled altogether – teams get paid by Dorna to go racing, but have to fund tests themselves - but the factories are opposed to this. There is also the question of whether they will continue with two tests in November, with many teams wanting to drop the Valencia test. Riders and teams are tired physically and emotionally after a long season, and engineers say that the feedback they get from riders at the Valencia test is not as good as at Jerez, 10 days or so later, after the riders have had some time off.

Finland in for Brno?

The Brno race looks to be a casualty, with solid reports that the 2019 race will be the last one at the scenic and challenging Czech circuit. There have been persistent problems with funding for the race, and rumors that the track has paid the sanctioning fee for the race either late or not in full.

If the Kymiring in Finland is ready for the 2020 season, the Finnish GP could keep the calendar at its current 19 races. When the race would be held is another question, given the challenges posed by the climate. The summer – July or August – would be the best time to hold the race, but as the Sachsenring attracts a lot of Scandinavian and especially Finnish fans, scheduling it too close to the German GP may cause some resistance.

Avintia out, Gresini satellite team in?

There could also be a reshuffling of some of the teams. In the past couple of years, the poorer satellite squads have been squeezed out of MotoGP, the places being taken by better-funded operations. The Avintia Ducati squad is the last holdout of shoestring-budget teams, and there are rumors that they will be moved out of MotoGP from 2022.

Their place – and possibly their grid slots – could be taken by Aprilia, so that the factory can operate its own factory squad, rather than partnering with Gresini. Gresini would then be free to become a satellite team, with rumors pointing to Suzuki as a possible partner.

The people involved inside the team at Suzuki have always been enthusiastic about a satellite team, but there have been problems with the budget in Japan. Suzuki's recent decision to change the organization of its racing department – setting up a separate Suzuki Racing Corporation department, which is capable of making its own decisions based on the budget set by Suzuki management – could create the financial and engineering space to make a satellite bike possible. The competitiveness of the Suzuki GSX-RR would make it relatively easy to find a team willing to run the bikes.

Ducati's second seat

Andrea Dovizioso is currently the only rider with a contract in the factory Ducati squad for the 2020 season, leading naturally to speculation over who will take the second seat next year. The prime candidates are current occupant Danilo Petrucci, and Pramac Ducati rider Jack Miller. Both riders made a strong case for themselves at Le Mans, though Petrucci's case was stronger as he finished ahead of Miller and on the podium. More importantly, he showed that he is a team player, as he was capable of trying to pass Dovizioso, but unwilling to risk taking them both out on the last lap.

Petrucci and Miller have at least two more races to make their case, Paolo Ciabatti told Motorsport.com's Oriol Puigdemont. After Mugello and Barcelona – two strong circuits for Ducati – management will sit down and start to consider their options.

Out of the frame

Two riders who won't be under consideration for the ride are Pecco Bagnaia, the second Pramac Ducati rider, and – surprisingly, to some – Aruba.it Ducati rider Alvaro Bautista, who is currently dominating the WorldSBK series. Bagnaia is still a rookie, and has not showed the kind of progress needed to leapfrog more experienced riders and take the second factory seat.

Alvaro Bautista, meanwhile, looks set to continue in WorldSBK. Sources close to Bautista told MotoMatters.com that the prospect of winning a title in WorldSBK, and competing for more championships in the next few seasons is a more attractive prospect than returning to MotoGP on a satellite squad, and racing for fifth place at best. At 34 years of age, he is unlikely to be considered for the factory Ducati team.

Alex Márquez in MotoGP?

Emilio Alzamora, manager of the Márquez brothers, is continuing in his quest to get Alex, the younger of the two, into MotoGP. At Le Mans, Alzamora told GPOne.com that he had started a conversation with Ducati about getting Alex Márquez into the Pramac Ducati squad.

Any such move is far from a foregone conclusion, however. Alzamora emphasized that these were just preliminary conversations, rather than contract negotiations, with everything still up in the air. Márquez made a strong case for himself at Le Mans, winning his first race since Motegi, in October 2017. But the younger Márquez brother will have to keep up this performance throughout the year, and keep up a sustained challenge for the title. If he can fight for the 2019 championship, he should earn his passage to MotoGP.

* The fact that we still refer to the races in Qatar, Argentina, the US, Thailand, Japan, Australia and Malaysia as 'overseas' races is a symptom of the Eurocentric attitude in MotoGP. This will slowly change, as more tracks outside Europe join the calendar, but with Dorna, IRTA, most of the teams, most of the riders, and half of the factories active in the Grand Prix paddock based in Europe, it will persist for some time yet.


Gathering the background information for detailed articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.

Source: 

Back to top

Silverstone To Be Resurfaced In June, Contract Extended To 2021

The Silverstone circuit is to be resurfaced in June, ahead of the British F1 Grand Prix, and to be ready for the 2019 British round of MotoGP at the circuit in August.

The resurfacing was a condition for the Northamptonshire circuit to be able to host MotoGP. After last year's debacle, when the race had to be canceled because the track was not clearing water fast enough to be able to race safely, the FIM suspended Silverstone's license to host international motorcycle racing events. 

To avoid a repeat of that debacle, Silverstone brought in Jarno Zafelli, owner of Studio Dromo, an engineering company with expertise in track design, while Tarmac Ltd - the business founded by the inventor of the sticky black road surface - will be responsible for laying the new surface. Zafelli acts as an advisor to Dorna on track safety, design, and surfacing, and has been a key figure in overseeing the process.

Special equipment has been flown in from Japan, according to Mat Oxley over on Motor Sport Magazine. The profile of the circuit is being modified to improve drainage, and the asphalt will be a fraction more open to help disperse the water.

Silverstone's willingness to switch partners for the resurfacing is a sign of just how strongly the circuit is committed to MotoGP. The contract for MotoGP has now also been extended, with Silverstone set to host MotoGP through 2021. Unconfirmed rumors suggest an even longer extension is in the works, with Silverstone aiming for a five-year extension.

Though the new contract has been signed, this is not the end of the existing dispute between Silverstone and Aggregate Industries, who were responsible for the resurfacing last year. Though both parties are close to a preliminary agreement, there is still some wrangling between the parties and their insurance companies over how to distribute the costs of the canceled event.

For comments on the resurfacing from Michelin, Silverstone, and Dorna, see this story on the MCN website. Below is the official press release issued by circuit confirming the resurfacing:


Silverstone confirms resurface of Grand Prix circuit and extends MotoGP™ contract

May 8, 2019

Silverstone is delighted to confirm the entire Grand Prix circuit will be resurfaced in June, ahead of the 2019 GoPro British Grand Prix MotoGP™ in August.

In conjunction with the track surface news, MotoGP™ owners Dorna have this week also confirmed the contract to host MotoGP™ in the UK will stay with Silverstone to the end of 2021.

MotoGP™ at Silverstone is the pinnacle of a busy year of two-wheel racing at the Northamptonshire circuit, with the event taking place this year on the August Bank Holiday weekend of Friday, 23 to Sunday, 25 August.

The track work will be carried out by leading construction solutions company Tarmac under the guidance of track consultant Jarno Zaffelli. He has been appointed by Silverstone as an advisor for the duration of the project.

Silverstone Managing Director Stuart Pringle said: “Getting to this point has involved a lot of work by the staff at Silverstone but throughout it all we have been completely focused on making sure we make the right decisions to guarantee the future of our most important events with Formula One and MotoGP™.

“We have a globally-renowned company working on the surfacing of the track and we have one of the most respected circuit designers in Jarno Zaffelli working as an expert advisor to Silverstone during the works.

“The extension to the MotoGP™ contract is excellent news for all of us at Silverstone and allows us to plan long-term for the future development of MotoGP™, and all two-wheel action, at our circuit. We look forward to making the MotoGP™ weekend the best motorcycling event in the UK biking calendar.”

Paul Fleetham, Managing Director of Tarmac's Construction business said: “We are exceptionally proud to be working with the team at Silverstone to resurface the iconic British race circuit. It demonstrates both the quality of our people and our first class track record in delivering high-profile, nationally significant schemes.

“We’ve assembled a highly skilled team of professionals from across the country who will be working with pioneering innovations in automated construction to deliver the project to the highest possible standard. We look forward to getting underway.”

MotoGP™ CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta said: "The extension to the contract at Silverstone is a mark of the confidence we have in the circuit to host a successful MotoGP™ event over the next three years.

“Silverstone is one of the most historic of all the MotoGP™ venues and we have been working closely with Silverstone to ensure the race has a successful future. We will be assisting with any changes that need to be made regarding the track surface after the events of the 2018 MotoGP™.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Silverstone in what will be the highlight of the motorcycle racing calendar in the UK."

Back to top

KTM Extends Miguel Oliveira Through 2020 Season

KTM has exercised the option it held over Miguel Oliveira's contract, extending it for the second year, according to German-language website Speedweek. The Portuguese rider will now race for the satellite Red Bull KTM Tech3 for the 2019 and 2020 seasons at least.

That KTM should decide to sign Oliveira up early is hardly surprising. The Portuguese rider has been quietly impressive since moving up to MotoGP. He rode well in the first half of the season opener at Qatar, before burning up his tires and dropping down to finish seventeenth.

But he learned quickly, and put on an outstanding display in Argentina, just losing out in the battle for ninth from Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia and brother Pol Espargaro on the factory KTM. In Austin, he finished shortly behind the other factory KTM of Johann Zarco, who Oliveira has frequently outperformed this year.

The Portuguese rookie is currently sixteenth in the MotoGP standings, ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Iannone, and Johann Zarco, all three of whom have vastly more experience in the premier class.

With Oliveira's contract extended through 2020, that leaves only a few seats open for 2019. The biggest open seat is of course the second factory Ducati seat currently occupied by Danilo Petrucci, with Jack Miller, Pecco Bagnaia, and possibly even Alvaro Bautista in play there if Petrucci cannot do enough to retain his ride in the factory team. Miller's current contract runs out at the end of this season with the Pramac Ducati squad.

The Petronas Yamaha riders, Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo are also only on a single year contract, but they have so far done more than enough to earn their rides. And Tito Rabat and Hafizh Syahrin are also on one-year deals. Syahrin is the rider in most trouble, the Malaysian struggling far more with the KTM RC16 than he ever did with the Yamaha M1. 

But even those with contracts could find themselves in trouble. Andrea Iannone's disappointing start to the 2019 season could put his place in jeopardy for next year if he does not improve, with rumors that Danilo Petrucci has his eyes on Iannone's ride if someone takes his spot at Ducati. Jorge Lorenzo has had a similarly poor start, but his problems have been exacerbated by technical problems with the Honda RC213V, including a clutch issue at Qatar, losing a handlebar grip in Argentina, and then an electrical issue in Austin. 

Further decisions about any open seats for 2020 are unlikely to come for the next races. With so few seats available, there is little reason to rush. Most will wait until the summer break after the Sachsenring round.

Back to top

MotoE Testing To Resume At Valencia In June

After the disastrous fire which destroyed the Energica Ego Corsa motorcycles and all of the charging equipment for the series at Jerez back in March, the MotoE class is on track to resume preparations for its inaugural season in 2019. Today, Dorna confirmed that testing will resume at Valencia in mid June.

The MotoE riders will assemble at the Circuito Ricardo Tormo in Cheste, near Valencia, on 17th June, the day after the MotoGP race in Barcelona, for three days of testing ahead of the first race of the season at the Sachsenring three weeks later. Testing will pick up where they left off at Jerez, with bikes and riders working on set up and further understanding the intricacies of racing an electric motorcycle. 

The announcement of a test at Valencia is a boost for the series. After fire destroyed all of the equipment for the series, there was serious concerns that Energica, a relatively small manufacturer, could build sufficient bikes to replace the machines damaged by the fire in time to run a series in 2019. Those fears have been allayed, for now at least.

The MotoE championship will now consist of six races at four rounds, to be held at MotoGP rounds: single races at the Sachsenring and Red Bull Ring in Austria, then two double headers, at Misano and the season finale at Valencia.

The press release announcing the test appears below:


FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup test confirmed for Valencia in June

Full commitment from everyone on board sees MotoE™ ready to get back on track soon

After a fire that sadly destroyed much of the material for the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup, the race was on to get the inaugural season back on track as soon as possible and incredibly, with the support of suppliers, Energica are expecting to have built all the machinery for the season in less than three months. Thanks to an incredible push from all those involved, MotoE™ is ready to race.

Previously, a rescheduled calendar was announced and now the dates and venue for the preseason test can also be confirmed. The Circuit Ricardo Tormo is the host for the three-day event, which will take place from the 17th to 19th June. The same track at which MotoE™ will now celebrate their season finale with a double header alongside MotoGP™ at Valencia, it’s the perfect place for the grid to continue their preparation for the season ahead.

Primarily, the test will pick up where Jerez left off, with riders and teams focused on gaining experience with the bike and setup. Sessions will start from the grid for everyone to get to grips with race starts and grid procedures.

Subject to weather, the last day - 19th of June - will kick-off with an E-pole simulation as riders test out qualifying with just one single fast lap at a time. The day will finish with a full race simulation, where riders will get a chance to practice overtakes and race strategy, with Energica awarding the winner with their very own motorcycle Energica Eva – the streetfighter model available for sale.

Simulating qualifying and a full race is useful not only for the riders and teams, but also for the organisation of the Cup in order to fine tune procedures ahead of MotoE™’s debut at the Sachsenring in July. For example, there will be a sighting lap ahead of the race but there is no need for a Warm Up lap on this parallel path of electric racing – so the three-day test will ensure everything is ready for lift off in Germany.

  • Test - June 17th - 19th - Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Comunitat Valenciana
  • Race 1 - July 5th -7th - Sachsenring, Germany
  • Race 2 - August 9th -11th - Red Bull Ring - Spielberg, Austria
  • Races 3 & 4 - September 13th -15th - Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, San Marino and Riviera di Rimini
  • Races 5 & 6 - November 15th -17th - Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Comunitat Valenciana
Source: 

Back to top

Assen WorldSBK Saturday, Sunday Schedule Reshuffled After Race 1 Canceled Due To Snow

The weather in Assen has not been kind to WorldSBK. Exceptionally cold temperatures on Saturday caused problems for the Superpole session, but shortly after Superpole, it started to snow. That forced the organizers  to delay the start of Race 1, but after snow started to fall again, the rest of the action was canceled, meaning both WorldSBK Race 1 and the WorldSSP300 Last Chance Race were called off.

The cancelation of Race 1 means a new schedule for Sunday at Assen. The Superpole race has been canceled, with two full races to be held on Sunday instead. WorldSBK Race 1 will start at 11am CEST, while Race 2 will start at the normal time of 2pm CEST.

Below is the press release announcing the change:


WorldSBK Race 1 postponed due to weather condition in Assen

Unpredictable weather condition forces Saturday’s WorldSBK Race 1 to be postponed to Sunday

Following severe weather condition on Saturday afternoon during the Motul Dutch Round in Assen, the difficult decision was taken to postpone WorldSBK Race 1 to Sunday.

Following a snow storm hitting the TT Circuit Assen early in the afternoon during the WorldSBK grid, Race 1 start had been delayed twice. However, weather conditions continued to deteriorate forcing to reschedule the race, at 11:00 AM on Sunday morning, to guarantee riders’ safety.

Sunday’s new schedule will include WorldSBK Race 1 at 11:00 AM LT (GMT +2.00) and WorldSBK Race 2 will start regularly at 14:00 LT (GMT +2.00). Thus, cancelling the Tissot Superpole Race.

Starting grid positions for WorldSBK Race 1 and Race 2 will be following the results of today’s WorldSBK Tissot Superpole.

The rest of the schedule remains unchanged.

Source: 

Back to top

WorldSBK Rev Limit Changes: Ducati Panigale V4R Loses, Honda CBR1000RR Gains

After Alvaro Bautista's runaway success since joining the WorldSBK series, winning all six main races and all three Superpole races, mostly by a significant margin, the FIM has made the first move toward balancing out performance. Starting from the next round at Assen, the Ducati Panigale V4R is to lose 250 revs, while the Honda CBR1000RR, which has struggled badly since the start of the year, is to given an extra 500 revs on the maximum rev limit.

This is not the only step taken to limit the advantage which the Ducati has. Because Bautista has won every race so far, Ducati will also not be allowed to bring any engine performance upgrades, the so-called concession parts, which includes items such as cylinder heads, air intake funnels, etc. The Panigale V4R will have to compete in the state of tune they started the season. 

The same applies to Kawasaki. As Jonathan Rea finished every race in second place, the ZX-10RR will also not be allowed any updates through the 2019 season. 

All other manufacturers - Honda, Yamaha, BMW - will be allowed to bring one set of updates at some point during the season. This also applies to the brands not currently competing, MV Agusta, Aprilia, and Suzuki.

As Honda have struggled since the beginning of the year, and since Honda switched from the Ten Kate squad to the Moriwaki Althea team, riders Leon Camier, Ryuichi Kiyonari, and Alessandro Delbianchi all struggling to get close to the top ten, Honda have benefited from the rev limit system working two ways, and not just one. Honda have been granted an extra 500RPM to increase their maximum to 15,050. 

The press release from the FIM also notes that BMW chose to use the standard engine during the first two rounds of 2019, and so those results were weighted less when taking any change to BMW's rev limits into account. If the S1000RR continues to struggle in top speed against the other brands, they may yet gain more revs after the next three rounds.

What difference will all these changes make? It is unlikely that the loss of 250 revs will make a huge amount of difference to the Ducati Panigale V4R. Bautista's dominance seems to be more about the perfect match of rider and machine than any specific amount of horsepower. What's more, Ducati used their recent test at Aragon to try the bike with 250 RPM less, and so they already have an idea of how the bike will react.

The added revs for the Fireblade may give Honda a chance to catch up, though: if Moriwaki can coax a little more horsepower from the top end of the bike, they may get a little closer to the front.

Below are the new and old rev limits for all bikes, and below that, the press release from the FIM announcing the changes:

Bike New rev limit Old rev limit
Aprilia RSV4 RF 14700 14700
BMW S 1000RR 14900 14900
Ducati 1199 Panigale R 12400 12400
Ducati Panigale V4R 16100 16350
Honda CBR1000RR 15050 14550
Kawasaki ZX 10 RR 2019 14600 14600
MV Agusta F4 RR 14950 14950
Suzuki GSX R 1000RR 14900 14900
Yamaha YZF-R1 14700 14700

FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships
Balancing and Concession updates

At the conclusion of the 3rd round of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship the concession points scores see the top two manufacturers Ducati and Kawasaki at the top of the table. Due to the gap of only 7 points (20-13) neither will be allowed a concession parts upgrade during the season.

The remaining manufacturers will all be allowed one upgrade.

The calculation is made considering the results of the full distance races (Races 1 and 2).

REV LIMITS:

The DWO and FIM in consultation with their performance analysis partner have concluded that the following updates will be made to the manufacturers rev limits:

  • Ducati – reduction of 250rpm
  • Honda – increase of 500rpm

Special consideration has been applied in the case of BMW – the German marque, after declaring their concession parts, chose to compete in the first two events using a standard engine. This is compliant with the regulations and therefore the weighting of the calculation has been biased towards their performance during the third event where the concession specification engine was used.

The changes must be in increments of 250rpm and the Honda’s performance indicates that two steps should be applied at this point.

From Round 4 – Motul Dutch Round (Assen) - the rev limits will be:

Brand Rev-Limit
Aprilia 14700
BMW 14950
BMW 2019 14900
Ducati V2 12400
Ducati V4 16100
Honda 15050
Kawasaki 2018 14100
Kawasaki 2019 14600
MV Agusta 14950
Suzuki 14900
Yamaha 14700

Back to top

Belgian Region Approves Loan To Prepare Spa-Francorchamps For EWC And MotoGP

The odds of Grand Prix motorcycle racing returning to the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium increased last week. On Thursday, the government of Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, announced that the circuit had been granted a €29.5 million loan for upgrades to make the track safe enough to eventually host motorcycle racing at the circuit

The loan, from the Walloon development agency SOGEPA, is part of a larger financial package of €80 million aimed at updating and modernizing the Belgian circuit. €51 million of that total is targeted at bringing back international motorcycle racing to the track. The objective, according to Belgian website 7sur7, is to have the FIM WEC World Endurance Championship return to the circuit in 2022, with a possible return for MotoGP planned for 2024. 

Making the circuit safe enough for motorcycle racing is no easy task. The track winds its way through the Belgian Ardennes, a closely wooded area composed of steep hills. There is little room to create added runoff, at what would undoubtedly be one of the fastest tracks on the calendar. Corners such as Eau Rouge/Radillon and Blanchimont would be candidates for the fastest corners on the calendar, with little room for error. The circuit still holds the record for the highest average speed in Grand Prix racing, when Barry Sheene lapped the then 14.1 kilometer circuit at an average speed of 220.721 km/h. Even on the shorter 6.9 km circuit which Grand Prix racing used on their last visit in 1990, Kevin Schwantz set pole at an average speed of over 174 km/h. With 30 years of progress since then, MotoGP bikes should go much more quickly.

The layout is not the only challenge to racing at Spa. The Belgian Ardennes is a beautiful location, but the dense woods and steep hills mean it is highly susceptible to wet weather. On average, it rains approximately 12 days of every month in the area, giving a very high chance of rain. 

Scheduling a race in Belgium would also be tricky. Spa-Francorchamps is 375 km or three-and-a-half hours from Assen, and roughly 600km from both Le Mans in France and the Sachsenring in Germany. If the calendar threatened to cannibalize spectators from one of the other races, serious objections could be raised.

The dangerous nature of the circuit has saw international motorcycle racing withdraw from the track many years ago, the track focusing instead on the F1 race held there. A motorcycle Grand Prix race was held at Spa-Francorchamps 40 times, between 1949 and 1990, only missing out in 1980 (when the Belgian Grand Prix was held at Zolder) and in 1987, when the race at Spa was canceled due to safety measures demanded by the FIM not having been taken. The last 24-hour endurance race backed by the FIM was held at Spa in 2003, the 2004 24 Heures de Liege (as the race was known) being canceled again because promised work to improve safety had not been done.

Back to top

Ten Kate To Return To WorldSBK With Yamaha And Loris Baz At Jerez

Ten Kate Racing will be making a return to the WorldSBK paddock. At either Imola or Jerez, the Dutch squad will be racing a Yamaha YZF-R1 with Loris Baz. With still some testing and development left to do, racing at Imola in early May is a tough challenge, but Ten Kate will definitely be racing at the Jerez round of WorldSBK to be held from 7th – 9th of June.

The switch to Yamaha is a dramatic break with the past for Ten Kate. The team grew out of a Honda dealership in Nieuwleusen, 45km south of Assen, and went on to win multiple championships in both the World Supersport and World Superbike categories. But on 30th October last year, Ten Kate were told at a meeting in Amsterdam that Honda would not be continuing with the team, but had chosen to partner with Althea and Moriwaki instead.

That decision had enormous consequences. Ten Kate was already developing engines ready for 2019, had ordered parts and supplies for the following season, and had signed a second rider alongside Leon Camier. Coming too late for Ten Kate to seek alternatives, the decision forced the race team into bankruptcy, and caused them to completely reevaluate their plans. After speaking to multiple other manufacturers, they eventually reached agreement with Yamaha Europe to race in WorldSBK for the 2019 season, with the first signs of a deal coming shortly before Christmas, while the details of the deal were only agreed in January.

The reasons for Ten Kate to choose Yamaha and Loris Baz to choose Yamaha and Ten Kate was the completeness of the package. Ten Kate will be supported by Yamaha Motor Europe, and will start with similar equipment to the Crescent Yamaha and GRT Yamaha teams. But Ten Kate will also work on their own development of the bike, and hope to make the bike much more competitive by the end of the year.

The deal also has a secondary benefit for both Ten Kate and Yamaha. The Ten Kate dealership also has a Racing Products shop, where they sell parts to professional and amateur racers. Ten Kate also sold the parts which they had developed in their own racing program, both in World Supersport and World Superbikes. But with Honda stepping slowly back from production racing, and fewer riders using Hondas for either racing or track days, Ten Kate Racing Products was starting to branch out to other manufacturers. As a by-product of Ten Kate's deal to race a Yamaha in WorldSBK, Ten Kate are now also selling Yamaha's GYTR line of racing products.

The goal for Ten Kate and Loris Baz is to aim for as many podiums as possible. With the championship already well underway, it is too late to chase a championship position, Baz said, so the objective is to focus on results race by race.

Team principal Ronald ten Kate described the range of emotions he had gone through after hearing from Honda that they would not be continuing the relationship. Anger, frustration, sadness, confusion, he had been through them all, he said. But the most difficult thing for him had been on the drive back from the meeting, knowing that the end of the contract meant that he would have to lay off so many of the people he has worked with for years. From a staff of over 20, Ten Kate will be returning to WorldSBK with a crew of around 8.

Asked if he felt any satisfaction at seeing the Hondas continue to struggle in WorldSBK in the hands of Althea and Moriwaki, Ronald ten Kate shrugged his shoulders. "Whether they are at the front or at the back, it doesn't really affect us," he said. At least it demonstrated that HRC had not been holding any magic solutions back from the team.

Loriz Baz had been prepared to wait for the Ten Kate team, while they prepared for the new season. After a difficult year in 2018, the Frenchman was willing to wait for a competitive package. He had been in talks for rides in BSB and MotoAmerica, but the combination of Ten Kate and a Yamaha R1 was worth holding out for. Baz had spent the winter working even harder on his fitness, in the hope that he would get a chance in 2019.

That chance will come at either Imola or Jerez. If Ten Kate go racing at Imola, then it will be very much a shakedown, with little time for testing or preparation. But they expect to have everything in place for Jerez, and to be able to go testing before the race there.


Gathering the background information for detailed articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.

Source: 

Back to top

MSMA Solves Aero Crisis By Splitting MotoGP Class In Two

As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. Splitting the MotoGP class into two is a severely unlikely proposal, and would be a lot to ask. The splits between the manufacturers over aerodynamics continue, but should be solved by creating clearer regulations. This story was just an excuse for me to make a truly terrible pun.

After the past three weeks have been filled with controversy over aerodynamic appendages, a compromise has been reached among the manufacturers involved in MotoGP, MotoMatters.com has learned. At a meeting of the MSMA in Termas De Rio Hondo, Argentina, on Sunday, the six manufacturers agreed to a new format for MotoGP which would allow both the opponents and advocates of aerodynamics to get what they want from the series.

The proposal, which is yet to be put to the Grand Prix Commission, would see the MotoGP championship split into two, the class running twice, both with and without aerodynamic fairings. From next year, if the proposal is approved, MotoGP will host two races each Sunday: one for the MotoGP Aero Championship, and one for the MotoGP Plain Championship.

Crucially, the bikes for both will be identical. At the start of the season, the manufacturers will homologate their bikes and fairings as before, but they will also have to homologate two different fairings: one with aerodynamic appendages, and one without. But the rules on aerodynamics will be made much more free, with a return of actual winglets.

This added freedom was necessary to reach the compromise between the two sides. The manufacturers are split on the role of aerodynamics in MotoGP, with Ducati on one side being firm believers in the benefits of exploring aero, and KTM and Aprilia irrevocably opposed on cost grounds. Honda and Suzuki were also opposed, though Honda did not fear an aerodynamics war, as they have vast amounts of experience with F1.

The compromise also means that both advocates and opponents of aerodynamics would be able to focus on what they felt was important, as having two races and two championships means that each factory has two chances to succeed. Ducati have a chance to optimize their aerodynamics package, and dominate the MotoGP Aero Championship, while other manufacturers can decide to optimize power delivery and bike handling in the hope of winning the MotoGP Plain Championship.

Dorna is said to be broadly supportive of the proposal, as they see an opportunity to expand the audience for MotoGP, and a better way of differentiating between the MotoGP and WorldSBK championships. By opening up the MotoGP Aero Championship to a return to winglets, the bikes will look a lot less like the production bikes the WorldSBK series is based on.

But Dorna have also seen that there is an extra niche market opening for them. A significant portion of the fans decry the use of aerodynamics, and want the MotoGP bikes to return to the simpler, plainer looks they had without the winglets and aero packages. To accommodate those fans, Dorna will be retaining exclusive rights to the MotoGP Plain Championship, which it will be broadcast on the MotoGP.com website. The MotoGP Plain Championship videos can be accessed by following the "Spoiler-Free" link on the video section of the website.

Source: 

Back to top

MotoGP Court Of Appeal Rules Ducati's Swing Arm Aero Spoiler Legal, Confirms Dovizioso As Qatar Race Winner

The MotoGP Court of Appeal has ruled that Ducati's aero spoiler, attached to the bottom of the swing arm of the three Desmosedici GP19s and used in the opening MotoGP race at Qatar, is legal. The decision of the court means that the race result stands, and that Ducati can continue to use the spoiler going forward.

Ducati's aerodynamic spoiler, ruled legal by the FIM

The decision comes after the Court of Appeal heard a protest, submitted by Aprilia, Honda, KTM, and Suzuki against the ruling by MotoGP Technical Director that Ducati's device was legal. After the race, the four factories protested first to the FIM Stewards, who rejected the protest, and then to the FIM Appeal Stewards, who ruled that they needed technical information to judge the merits of the case, and so referred the protest to the MotoGP Court of Appeal.

Last Friday, the Court of Appeal sat in Mies, Switzerland, the offices of the FIM, and heard submissions from Ducati, and from the other four factories who submitted the appeal. Ducati had Fabiano Sterlacchini present alongside Gigi Dall'Igna, while Suzuki and Aprilia had brought Filippo Petrucci, a Ferrari engineer who had worked with Michael Schumacher in F1 previously, to help present their objections. 

The case revolved around the function of the spoiler fitted to the bottom of the Ducati's swing arm. Ducati claim that it helps to cool the rear tire. The other four factories, Aprilia foremost among them, point to the fact that the spoiler has three horizontal vanes, which must, they claim, create some kind of downforce. 

New guidelines

The case was only made possible because Ducati and Aprilia presented swing arm-mounted spoilers to MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge to ask whether they would be legal. As part of the additional technical guidelines, Aldridge ruled that devices could be attached to the bottom of the swing arm, if they were solely to be used for deflecting water or debris from the rear tire, for the purpose of cooling the rear tire, and "their purpose is not to generate aerodynamic forces with respect to the ground".

Ducati managed to convince Aldridge that their spoiler was used for cooling the rear tire. No doubt the fact that the spoiler is only fitted together with the front wheel covers helped persuade him of their case. Aprilia, who had asked to use a device which they were using to generate downforce, and which Aldridge had rejected, decided to protest Ducati's use of the spoiler.

The MotoGP Court of Appeal has now found in favor of Ducati, ruling that the use of the spoiler was legal, and that they can use the spoiler in future races. This also means that the result of the MotoGP season opener at Qatar stands, and Andrea Dovizioso keeps his race win, and his lead in the MotoGP championship. 

This is not the final step in the process, however. Aprilia, Honda, KTM, and Suzuki now have five days to protest against this decision, and appeal it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the CAS. I understand that as yet, no decision on an appeal has been taken, in large part because the FIM only released the decision, and not the reasoning behind the decision. Without knowing what persuaded the three judges who heard the case, it is hard for the four factories to decide whether an appeal to the CAS would stand a chance.

Lessons for the future

Two things seem clear from this decision of the MotoGP Court of Appeal. The first is that the MotoGP regulations on aerodynamics are badly in need of clarification. As an example, the technical guidelines issued by Danny Aldridge speak of "attachments to the rear swing arm". As some people have pointed out, this is easily circumvented by integrating the spoiler into the shape of the swing arm. These issues will not be solved by issuing further guidelines; it needs a full overhaul of the rules.

Which raises a larger problem. The MSMA, the manufacturers association, are responsible for the technical rules in MotoGP in the first instance. Any proposal for a change to the technical regulations must come from them, with Dorna and the FIM only able to put forward proposals related to safety. But as I wrote last week, keeping the MSMA together is no longer easy with six factories involved. There are growing signs of splits inside the MSMA, and open recrimination between some of the principals. Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna reportedly said in Qatar that he had been faced with "laypeople" on the other side of the table. KTM's Mike Leitner retorted that "nobody could believe that the race departments of Aprilia, Suzuki, Honda, and KTM only employ laypeople".

Ducati, and especially Gigi Dall'Igna, have made no secret of their desire to continue to explore the possibilities offered by aerodynamics. The other factories are much less keen, fearing the cost an aerodynamics war might unleash. The chances of  the six factories involved in MotoGP being able to produce a unanimous proposal on aerodynamics seem to be close to zero.

The FIM could still adopt a proposal not presented unanimously, of course. The rule book only obliges the Grand Prix Commission to accept technical proposals put forward by the MSMA if all MSMA members agree unanimously. The other five MSMA members could put forward a proposal which Ducati disagrees with, and Dorna, IRTA, and the FIM could consider it on its merits. Given the aversion inside Dorna and IRTA against aerodynamics, such a proposal should pass the GPC with relatively little resistance. 

But that is in the future. First, we must wait and see if any of the four manufacturers decide to appeal the decision of the MotoGP Court of Appeal to the CAS.

The FIM press release from the Court of Appeal appears below:


MotoGP Court of Appeal hands down decision
Case against Ducati aerodynamic devices

VisitQatar Grand Prix – Doha (QAT), 10 March

During the MotoGP race at the season opener in Qatar on 10 March 2019, technical protests concerning the use of a device on the Ducati machine were lodged with the FIM MotoGP Stewards by Team Suzuki Ecstar against #43 Jack Miller (Ducati), by Repsol Honda Team against #4 Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), and by Red Bull KTM Factory Team and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini against #9 Danilo Petrucci (Ducati).

The protesting teams considered that the device was primarily an aerodynamic device and therefore not compliant with the MotoGP technical regulations. After a hearing, the four protests were rejected.

The same four teams then lodged appeals against the MotoGP Stewards’ decision to the MotoGP Appeal Stewards and a further hearing was conducted. The MotoGP Appeal Stewards determined that further technical evaluation was required and that this was not possible under the circumstances. They therefore decided to refer the matter to the MotoGP Court of Appeal in accordance with Art. 3.3.3.2 of the applicable Regulations.

Following a hearing in Mies on Friday 22 March, the MotoGP Court of Appeal handed down its decision today 26 March and the parties (the four appellants, Ducati and the FIM) have been duly notified.

On these grounds, the MotoGP Court of Appeal rules that:

  • The appeals filed by Team Aprilia, Team Suzuki, Team Honda and Team KTM are admissible.
  • The provisional race results are confirmed and are declared as final.
  • The request to declare the Device illegal and ban its use in future races is rejected.

An appeal against this decision may be lodged before the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) in Lausanne Switzerland within 5 days pursuant to Article 3.9 of the 2019 FIM World Championship Grand Prix Regulations.

Source: 

Back to top

Pages