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Launch Season Approaching - Yamaha, Ducati This Week, WorldSBK Teams In Two Weeks Time

With the first tests of 2017 fast approaching - track action gets underway next week, with the WorldSBK teams testing at Jerez, followed by MotoGP the week after - teams are presenting their new liveries, new sponsors and new teams for 2017.

This week sees two MotoGP factory teams unveil their new liveries and their new bikes for the 2017 season. The Movistar Yamaha team kick off proceedings on Thursday, 19th January, with the presentation of the 2017 Yamaha YZR-M1, with Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales as their riders. The following day, Friday, 20th January, Ducati follow suit, presenting Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso. Both events will be streamed live, for fans all over the world to see.

The Yamaha launch is to be held in Madrid, at the head office of Telefonica Group, the telecom giant which owns the Movistar brand. The event starts at 11:30am CET, and will be streamed live on both the official Yamaha MotoGP website, and on MotoGP.com. The new livery is to be unveiled at noon CET, with a press conference to follow.

The next day, Ducati launch their 2017 campaign, at their Borgo Panigale factory near Bologna. That event starts at 10:30am CET, and will also be streamed live. The Ducati launch will be shown live on the Ducati website. The presentation will follow a familiar pattern, with interviews with Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, and team bosses Paolo Ciabatti and Davide Tardozzi, as well as riders Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso, and the new bike being displayed. The Ducati launch is particularly eagerly awaited, as it will be the first chance we will get to see whether Ducati have found a solution to the ban on wings in 2017.

The Suzuki team will be the next to launch their 2017 team. The new bike and new riders - Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins - will be officially presented in Sepang on the 29th January, the evening before the test starts in Malaysia. No details are currently available, but it is likely to be held in the early evening Malaysian time.

Repsol Honda will follow Suzuki, though their launch is after the test. The Repsol Honda team will present their new livery in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 3rd February. The Repsol Honda team remains unchanged for 2017, with Dani Pedrosa once again alongside reigning world champion Marc Marquez.

KTM will be the final factory to present their team. That launch will be held on 20th February in Salzburg, the home of Red Bull. There, the livery for the 2017 KTM RC16 will be presented, with Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro as riders. 

Salzburg is also the location for the launch of Honda's WorldSBK team. The location of the launch is Hangar 7, home of the Red Bull aircraft demonstration team, confirming that Red Bull is to be the main sponsor of the Ten Kate Honda team in WorldSBI in 2017. That launch is to be held on 6th February.

A day later, the Pata Yamaha squad will also launch their 2017 campaign, alongside the rest of Yamaha's global racing activities. On 7th February, Yamaha will present their entire racing program, with the exception of the MotoGP team, at Yamaha's base in Gerno di Lesmo, near Milan. The Pata Yamaha WorldSBK squad will be presented alongside Yamaha's World Supersport, MXGP, MX2, Endurance World Championship, Enduro, and junior MX and enduro teams.

On 8th February, it is the turn of the Aruba.it Ducati team. The Ducati WorldSBK squad is to be presented in Arezzo, home of title sponsor Aruba.it. There, Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri will be presented to the world.

Further north, a Moto2 team will be launched. Also on 8th February, the Forward Racing team will present its Moto2 program in Milan, with riders Luca Marini and Lorenzo Baldassarri. Big things are expected of Baldassarri in 2017, while Marini will be aiming to grow into a regular candidate for top 5 finishes.

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Circuit News: Spa Looking To Host MotoGP, MSV Acquires Donington Lease

After last week's announcements from the Circuit of Wales and the Hungaroring, there comes news from two more circuits this week. Firstly, that the legendary Belgian Spa Francorchamps circuit is looking to host a MotoGP round. And secondly, that MSV has taken over the lease to run the Donington Park circuit, also possibly opening the door to a return for MotoGP.

The first news is perhaps the most exciting for MotoGP fans. In an interview with the Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure, Spa Francorchamps boss Nathalie Maillet, said she hoped to bring MotoGP back to the iconic Belgian circuit within the next few years. She had spent a day in Madrid speaking to Dorna bosses, Maillet told DH, discussing the possibility of staging a race. "Making the changes needed to host a motorcycle race is not impossible," Maillet told DH.

The modifications are all part of a wider upgrading of the circuit. The most important for the fans is to have free publicly accessible WiFi throughout the circuit. Maillet said that she wants to have fiber optic cable throughout the circuit, to ensure better connectivity everywhere. "Francorchamps must become the best connected circuit in the world," she told DH. Further moves will see LED advertising panels with rotating adverts, as are used at other sporting venues, improving use of the circuit all year round, including during the winter, and providing more facilities for tourism.

The earliest Spa could host MotoGP would be in 2020, Maillet told DH, but she was taking a long-term view. Former racer and now TV commentator Didier de Radiguès described that time frame as "very optimistic". There is some merit to that: while Spa Francorchamps is arguably the finest racetrack on the face of the planet, there are a lot of points around the track which are extremely dangerous for motorcycle racing, corners where bikes pass at very high speed with very little run off. And being set in a forest, creating run off would require cutting down a lot of trees, robbing the track of some of its charm.

A bigger issue in hosting a MotoGP race is the number of circuits with existing long-term contracts and candidate circuits hoping to join the schedule. Twelve circuits (Qatar, Austin, Le Mans, Barcelona, Assen, Sachsenring, Brno, Misano, Aragon, Phillip Island, Sepang, and Valencia) have contracts until at least 2020. Of the six remaining tracks, only Jerez is uncertain of its place on the calendar in the long term. And of all eighteen tracks, nearly all are likely to extend their contracts at the end of them.

Then there is the list of candidates waiting in the wings. The Kymi Ring in Finland has a contract with Dorna to host a race from 2018. Last week, the Hungaroring expressed an interest in hosting MotoGP. Indonesia hopes to organize a race from 2018 or 2019. And there is talk of circuits in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Australia, and Kazakhstan. It is going to be almost impossible to fit another circuit in the existing schedule, and there are as many as nine potential candidates with a greater or less chance of securing a slot.

Another track which hosted MotoGP in the past was also in the news this week. Yesterday, MSV announced they had acquired the lease to run the Donington Park circuit from Kevin Wheatcroft, son of the man who first raised the circuit from the dead in the 1970s, Tom Wheatcroft.

The acquisition is undoubtedly good news for Donington Park. MSV, the group which owns Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Snetterton, and Cadwell Park, also runs the British Superbike series BSB. Kevin Wheatcroft had saved Donington from going under when the company which formerly ran it, Donington Ventures Leisure, went bankrupt. But despite turning the circuit into a success, Wheatcroft lacked the financial clout to make the necessary upgrades to the circuit to bring it up to scratch for modern events.

MSV has that clout, and has already announced that further investment is to be made. In a press release announcing the deal, MSV boss Jonathan Palmer said "Donington is a good British circuit that deserves further investment, energy and expertise in order to make it truly outstanding, and MSV will provide this. We plan a great new era for Donington, with some exciting new events and much enhanced quality of experience for all of its customers, whether spectators, competitors and track day participants, together with even better value."

What those exciting new events are can only be guessed at, but with a few upgrades, Donington could easily be made fit for MotoGP. That would make life easier for the current rights holder to the British Grand Prix, the Circuit of Wales. If the FIM homologates Donington Park for MotoGP, then the Circuit of Wales would have an alternative to Silverstone to host the race until the Welsh track is built. Being able to play Donington off against Silverstone would allow them to negotiate a better deal.

The MSV deal does raise the question of control over the BSB series. With the acquisition of Donington Park, MSV now owns five of the nine circuits at which BSB holds rounds, as well as the rights to organize the series. Eight of BSB's twelve rounds are held at circuits owned by MSV. Of the circuits on the BSB calendar, only Assen, Silverstone, Knockhill and Thruxton are not owned by MSV.


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2017 Racing News Round Up: Moto2, Hungaroring, Circuit of Wales, Galbusera Interview

The first week of 2017 has come and gone, and we are a week closer to the MotoGP bikes hitting the track again at Sepang for the first test of the year. Though little of consequence is happening publicly in the midst of the winter break, there are the first few signs of activity. So below is a round up of the news from last week: most of the things that matter, all in one place.

Triumph to Moto2

Though this has been covered in depth elsewhere, it is worth pointing out the biggest news of recent weeks. Rumors which emerged at Silverstone, that Triumph would be taking over as official supplier of Moto2 engines, gained further momentum this week, with confirmation that the British manufacturer is to supply a new 765cc triple engine for use in Moto2. Testing is due to start in 2018, with the new engine to replace the current Honda CBR600RR unit from the start of the 2019 season.

Track talk

The Hungaroring is the latest in a long list of tracks hoping to host a MotoGP race in the near future. The circuit is currently undergoing major upgrades to the pit complex, grandstand and track, with additional run off being created in some corners. Speaking to the Hungarian TV channel M1, the circuit CEO explained that the changes to the track were to be made in consultation with the FIM, to ensure that it complied with FIM standards for MotoGP. More on the upgrades to the Hungaroring on the Autosport website.

This is not the first time Hungary has aimed to host a MotoGP race. Work had started on the Balatonring in 2008, with the track due to host a round of MotoGP in 2009. The global financial crisis put an end to that plan, the Spanish construction firm building the track running into financial difficulty, and the Forint, the currency of Hungary, collapsing in value. The Motorland Aragon circuit initially took over as a temporary replacement for the Balatonring, but soon earned a permanent place on the MotoGP calendar. The Balatonring is now largely abandoned, as you can see from the Google Maps satellite image.

The Hungaroring previously hosted Grand Prix in 1990 and 1992. Mick Doohan won on a Honda in 1990, and Eddie Lawson won on a Cagiva in 1992.

Whether the Hungaroring will actually get a spot on the calendar remains to be seen. The tracks currently on the calendar nearly all have multi-year contracts to stage MotoGP rounds. In addition, there are at least five or six other circuits lining up to take a spot on the calendar. Dorna has reached agreement to stage a MotoGP round in Finland from 2018 at the Kymiring, some 110 kilometers from the Finnish capital Helsinki.

A new track is being built at Tailem Bend in Australia, which also hopes to secure MotoGP. Work continues on an Indonesian round of MotoGP, though it is still uncertain whether this will take place at an upgraded Sentul or a new circuit to be built at Palembang in South Sumatra. The Chang International Circuit in Thailand is also angling for a MotoGP round, and is hosting WorldSBK while it waits. Kazakhstan has a circuit ready and hopes to play home to MotoGP. And expansion in South America also remains a possibility, with a new circuit in Chile, talk of another track in Argentina, and continual rumors of a return to Brazil. Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta has said that he believes that MotoGP could hold a maximum of 20 rounds each year, but there is a lot of opposition from riders to this, who do not want the series expanded beyond 18 races.

New partnerships, new surfaces

There was good news for the Circuit of Wales. The new circuit to be built near Ebbw Vale in South Wales announced a partnership with the leisure firm EXTREME. The British firm is planning to build an adventure sports park beside the circuit, housing a range of outdoor activities. The park would mountain park trails, a zip wire trail, paintball, a water park, and much more. There would also be restaurants and a hotel.

The circuit is still trying to reach a deal with the Welsh Government over underwriting the project. However, building an adventure park, which would attract visitors all year round, would be a significant contributor to the number of jobs in and around the Circuit of Wales.

Over in France, the Le Mans circuit was resurfaced before the winter break. There had been a lot of complaints about the old surface at the circuit, the track having lost most of its grip, and having a lot of ripples in several places, caused by the cars which also use the circuit. The new surface was laid in a three-week period, the process being completed last December. The new surface now has just three joints in the asphalt, whereas previously they littered the track.

Galbusera speaks to the Gazzetta

While everyone has been patiently waiting for the first interview with Jorge Lorenzo for the Spaniard to reveal all about his time at Yamaha, Ducati's new signing has been very quiet in the media. A sign, perhaps, that Lorenzo's departure from Yamaha was much more amicable than some had hoped.

If Lorenzo has not been interviewed – other than a few casual remarks to British publication Motorcycle News – others have spoken about him. Valentino Rossi's crew chief Silvano Galbusera was interviewed by the Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, the highlights of which were published by the Corse di Moto website. Galbusera covered several subjects, stating that he expected the atmosphere within Yamaha to be a little more relaxed now that Maverick Viñales had taken the place of Jorge Lorenzo. Galbusera told the Gazzetta that was not sure how strong the Ducati would be with Lorenzo aboard. "There will be races he will do very well and can win. But fighting for the title will be difficult." Galbusera believes that Marc Márquez will once again by the most dangerous of Valentino Rossi's rivals for the title.

Ten Kate take delivery of new blades

Finally, news of what racing teams really do over the winter. At the start of the new year, the Ten Kate team took delivery of their first shipment of 2017 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblades. The new bike is more powerful than the machine it replaces, as well as being lighter, and uses revised engine internals aimed at making it more competitive. Ten Kate are now hard at work turning the road bikes that rolled into their workshops into WorldSBK spec machines ready for Nicky Hayden and Stefan Bradl for the 2017 season.


Gathering the background information for long 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, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2016 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

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Triumph Set To Become Official Moto2 Engine Supplier From 2019

The future of the Moto2 class looks secure. Reports from the UK and Austria are suggesting that Triumph has finalized a deal to supply the Moto2 class when the current deal with Honda concludes at the end of 2018. From 2019, Triumph will supply a new three-cylinder engine, probably based on the new, larger sports triple they are building for release in 2017.

There had been uncertainty over the future of the Moto2 engine supplier since the beginning of this year. Honda had extended the deal to supply CBR600RR engines until the end of the 2018 season, but as the Japanese manufacturer was stopping production of its middleweight sports bike, it was clear that a replacement would have to be found. 

There had been speculation over who might take over the role of official engine supplier. It was clear that the class would remain single supplier - any move to change the current situation would have provoked a rebellion from the teams, who are enamored of the fact that Moto2 costs less to compete in than Moto3 - but the question was who would the supplier be. The candidates were Kawasaki, with the ZX-6R, MV Agusta, and Triumph. As we wrote back in September, in a piece exclusively for MotoMatters.com subscribers, Triumph were the favorites to secure the deal.

According to both Bikesportnews.com, who were first to spot the deal, and Speedweek.com, the deal with Dorna has now been signed, and Triumph is to become the new official engine supplier for Moto2 from 2019. The engine should be ready for testing during the 2018 season, in preparation for 2019.

German-language publication Speedweek claims that the engine is to be a new 750cc triple based on the Daytona 675R engine. However, it seems more likely that the engine will be based on the new 765cc triple rumored to be presented in a new sports-oriented bike at the MCN London Motorcycle Show in February.

A larger-capacity triple would be the ideal package for a new Moto2 machine. One of the main complaints with the Honda CBR600RR engine was that it was too wide. The Triumph should be slimmer, making it more suited to be packaged in a pure racing chassis. 

Two question marks hang over the use of the Triumph engine. The first is the serious question of reliability. The Triumph Daytona 675R is still raced in several national Supersport championships (though no longer in World Supersport), and although the bike is relatively nimble and quick, it also had a reputation for engine problems. As a spec engine supplier, Triumph will have to ensure that reliability is guaranteed. Fortunately, they will also have more control over the process, being able to monitor maintenance procedures and swap out engines more often than the three-race schedule currently in use, should it be needed.

The second issue with Triumph's current 675 engine design is the location of the engine mounts. The engine mounts are located on the cylinder head, very high up. This leaves chassis designers little material to work with when trying to engineer flex into the side struts. More modern engine designs have the forward engine mounts located closer to the cylinder base, rather than the cylinder head. Whether Triumph has modified the forward engine mount will become clear when the engine is presented in February.

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MotoGP Rules Update: Michelin To Automatically Display Tire Usage In MotoGP

The Grand Prix Commission has made a couple of minor changes to the MotoGP regulations for the 2017 season, and unlike many rule changes, at least one of them will be met with outright joy by most MotoGP fans. 

The biggest change to be announced is the adoption of Michelin's wireless technology that allows them to automatically identify which tire a rider is using, and pass that information back to the Dorna data feed. This data will then be available to all teams and riders, but far more importantly, it will also be available to TV broadcasters. No longer will they have to rely on the sterling work of pit lane reporters such as MotoGP.com's excellent Dylan Gray, they will have the information at their fingertips.

Though the press release issued by the Grand Prix Commission does not mention it, fans will have to fervently hope that tire selection will also be made public on the official MotoGP.com live timing website, and on the MotoGP mobile app. That would add an extra dimension to fan enjoyment of practice and the race.

The information on which tires are fitted to a bike is relayed though the spec Magneti Marelli ECU. The information is then passed back to Race Direction (and then on to Dorna's data feed) through the full duplex communication channels in the circuit timing loops. Having the information available inside the ECU will also allow the tire information to be displayed on the dashboard of the bikes, removing any confusion over which tires are fitted to a particular bike.

However, this does not mean that the bikes will be able to automatically switch engine maps according to the tires fitted. This will only be possible if all six MotoGP manufacturers agree to updated the spec software to enable this. 

Additional soft tire in Q2

Tires are also central to the other tweak to MotoGP rules. From 2017, any rider passing into Q2 from Q1 will be given the option of swapping one of the harder compound tires in their allocation for a softer tire. The total number of rear tires allocated will not change, but allowing the riders coming through from Q1 gives them a better chance of being able to qualify well. 

This is only an advantage if riders still have enough tires to use in the race, however. If they are through their allocation of softer tires, but intend to race the harder compound, then they may not be willing to sacrifice one of their harder tires for an additional soft, and would be forced to use an already used softer tire to qualify. But as that is the status quo, there is no change.

An interesting alternative was offered by Rick Elliot on Twitter:

There is some merit to this argument. Factory riders have the data and support to manage their tire allocation better, and so should be able to manage with the existing allocation. If a rider from an independent team should make it through to Q2 from Q1, it would be an interesting proposition to allow them to have one extra tire in their allocation, instead of being allowed to swap a harder tire for a softer tire. That would be a very small concession to make to the independent teams, without radically interfering in the balance between factory and satellite teams. Whether the rule makers are willing to listen is another question altogether.

The official FIM press release containing the updated rules appears below:


FIM Grand Prix World Championship

Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Carlos Ezpeleta (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in an electronic meeting held on 15th. December 2016, made the following decisions:

Technical Regulations – MotoGP class

Effective Season 2017

Automatic Detection of Tyre Types

In collaboration with Michelin and the MotoGP class manufacturers a new system will be implemented that will enable automatic detection of the tyres that that riders are using and to make that information available to all riders and teams as well as to the TV broadcasters.

The tyre detection is made by means of wireless technology. The information is then fed to the unified ECU and routed to the track timing system which reports via an updated version of the unified software.

Tyre Allocations

To address the issue of a perceived disadvantage affecting riders who progress from QP1 to QP2, the two riders involved will now be able to choose an additional soft specification rear slick tyre. The total number of tyres available to such riders remains unchanged.

Addendum – Tyre Allocations

In the information released concerning decisions of the Grand Prix Commission in Madrid held on the 2nd. of December it was stated that the maximum number of wet and dry track tyres remains unchanged.

This was incorrect. The maximum number of wet weather tyres has been changed to five front and six rear. (Race Direction can still approve an additional allocation of one extra front and rear tyres when all free practice and qualifying is held in wet conditions).

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

http://www.fim-live.com/en/sport/regulations-and-documents/grand-prix/

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2016 Superprestigio Entry Lists: Champions From Around The World Face Off In The Dirt

The final line up for Saturday night's Superprestigio indoor dirt track event, to be held at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, has been announced. As always, the big names at the event are reigning MotoGP champion Marc Marquez and former AMA Flat Track champion Brad Baker, with the event likely to see another run off in the Superfinal between the two.

As always, the field is divided into two classes: the Superprestigio class and the Open class. The Superprestigio class features stars from the world of road racing, including the Marquez brothers Marc and Alex, Jorge Martin, Fabio Di Giannantonio, Nico Terol, Toni Elias, with the big surprise being former World Superbike racer Ruben Xaus coming out of retirement to race on a Pursang, a revival of the classic bike from the 1960s and 1970s in flat track form. 

The Open class features starts of various off-road disciplines. Brad Baker is the main attraction, who was due to be joined by fellow AMA champion Jared Mees, until Mees suffered an injury. There are stars from the booming European dirt track scene, including Ferran Cardus, Ollie Brindley, Gerard Bailo and Alan Birtwistle, Speedway star Fredrik Lindgren, Supermotor champions Thomas Chareyre and Sylvain Bidart and more.

The event kicks off at 6pm CET, with the Superfinal being run at 9:10pm, and is due to be shown live on TV in 60 countries. US fans can watch on Fanschoice TV, with the event also being streamed live on Youtube. The full list of broadcasters is available on the DTX Barcelona website.

For an excellent preview of the event, see WorldSBK commentator and Paddock Pass Podcast contributor Steve English' look ahead over on the Asphalt & Rubber website. The full timetable of events is on the DTX Barcelona website.

Superprestigio class

  No Rider Nation Bike
1 1 Kyle Smith GBR Honda
2 2 Jesko Raffin SUI Yamaha
3 8 Jorge Martin ESP Honda
4 11 Vincent Philippe FRA Suzuki
5 12 Xavi Forés ESP Suzuki
6 15 Dani Ribalta ESP Honda
7 18 Nico Terol ESP Suzuki
8 19 Xavier Simeon BEL Suzuki
9 21 Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA Honda
10 23 Marcel Schrotter GER Suzuki
11 24 Toni Elias ESP Suzuki
12 29 Raul Fernandez ESP Husqvarna
13 31 Carmelo Morales ESP Yamaha
14 36 Joan Mir ESP Honda
15 42 Marcos Ramirez ESP Honda
16 60 Julian Simon ESP Yamaha
17 73 Alex Marquez ESP Honda
18 75 Albert Arenas ESP KTM
19 81 Jordi Torres ESP Honda
20 88 Ricky Cardus ESP Suzuki
21 93 Marc Marquez ESP Honda
22 97 Xavi Vierge ESP Tech3
23 111 Ruben Xaus AND Pursang

Open class

  No Rider Nation Bike
1 4 Thomas Chareyre FRA TM
2 6 Brad Baker USA Honda
3 10 Francesco Cecchini ITA TM
4 17 Gerard Bailo ESP Suzuki
5 20 Toby Hales GBR Husqvarna
6 30 Alan Birtwistle GBR Honda
7 34 Jordi Casas ESP Honda
8 38 George Pickering GBR KTM
9 48 Emanuele Marzotto ITA Yamaha
10 64 Sylvain Bidart FRA Honda
11 66 Fredrik Lindgren SWE Honda
12 70 Masatoshi Ohmori JAP Suzuki
13 72 Genis Gelada ESP Honda
14 77 Ferran Cardus ESP Suzuki
15 79 Josep Piedra ESP Husqvarna
16 87 Oriol Mena ESP Honda
17 121 Joan Noguera ESP Yamaha
18 124 Oliver Brindley GBR Kawasaki
19 179 Guillermo Cano ESP Honda
20 181 Gianni Borgiotti ITA Suzuki
21 213 Jaume Gaya ESP Honda
22 215 Ferran Sastre ESP Kawasaki
23 971 Tom Edwards AUS Suzuki

 

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Barcelona Circuit Modifies MotoGP Layout, Moves F1 Chicane

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, home to the Barcelona round of MotoGP, has agreed a new track layout to be used for MotoGP from now on. After consultation with the FIM and the FIA, the circuit has settled upon a slightly revised version of the F1 layout used during the race at Barcelona this year, with the chicane at the (new) Turn 14 and Turn 15 having been moved several meters closer to the (new) Turn 13, providing more run off at the chicane.

The new layout confirms the use of the F1 layout after Turn 9, the right hander leading on to the back straight. The old layout of La Caixa, the long left hander of Turn 10, is to be replaced by the much sharper left of Turn 10, followed by a shallow flick of Turn 11. After the long right hander (now Turn 12 instead of Turn 11 on the classic MotoGP layout), the tighter entrance to Turn 13 follows, still following the layout used by F1. 

From Turn 13, the F1 and new MotoGP layouts differ, with Turn 14 moved closer to Turn 13, to allow more space at the side of Turn 14, and more runoff into the chicane. After the exit of Turn 15, the bikes head back to the glorious final corner and back on to the straight. The changes are illustrated in the image shared on Twitter by Movistar MotoGP journalist Izaskun Ruiz:

The changes have come in the wake of the tragic death of Luis Salom at the circuit during Moto2 practice on the weekend of the Barcelona round of MotoGP. Salom lost control of his Kalex exiting the old Turn 11 and slid across a tarmac section at Turn 12, hitting his own bike first, and then the barrier. There was neither gravel nor air fence at that point, because it was a highly unusual place for a rider to crash.

For the race weekend, the layout was changed to use the standard F1 layout, but the chicane at Turn 14 and Turn 15 was felt to be too close to the wall on the inside of Turn 14, and to not have enough runoff at Turn 15. That was solved temporarily by painting a line on the track to narrow the entry and slow the bikes down. 

The new layout is a more permanent fix to the problems at the circuit. The shorter run up to Turn 14 means the issues with runoff no longer exist. The earlier exit from Turn 15 should also make the final corner a little faster, and give back some of the speed along the straight. 

The change does mean a permanent end to two of the great corners in motorcycle racing. The old Turn 10, La Caixa, was a long, medium speed left hander with passing opportunities both on entry and in mid corner. The new Turn 10 features much harder braking, offering a passing opportunity on the brakes, but there is little chance to fight back on corner exit. The old corner was dropped because the turn was running out of runoff. Bikes that crashed there were starting to reach the barrier, and despite the air fence at the corner, this was a matter of concern for the Safety Commission and Race Direction. The new corner creates a lot more runoff.

The greatest loss is Turn 12, which was another fast right hander, the kind of corner for which the Barcelona circuit is famous. Though the lack of gravel and air fence were major contributors to Luis Salom's death, the main problem is that the grandstands are too close to the edge of the track at that point. The physical geography of the circuit makes alterations there very difficult, and very expensive. There is no real room to push the grandstands back, as there is an interior road behind it, set on a downhill slope. The only solution would be a raised grandstand in the style of Assen's GT grandstand, but that is a very expensive solution, one for which the circuit lacks the funds in the short term. 

New Grandstands At Assen, And The Economic Impact Of A MotoGP Race

"If it wasn't for the Dutch TT race, I would have to close my business." Those were the words of the taxi driver who took me from Assen train station to the circuit, for a presentation on the plans for major upgrades to their spectator facilities over the next three years and beyond.

It offered an insight into the importance of the MotoGP race at Assen, and by extension, the importance of circuits and MotoGP events around the world. My taxi driver explained that over the week surrounding the Assen race, he was kept so busy that the money he made during that period was the difference between ending the year with a profit and the ability to invest in the future of the business, or just about breaking even.

Chatting to an official of the provincial government, who had grown up in the city and worked in bars there during his college years, he confirmed that experience. The bars back then were so busy during the race weekend that it was the difference between survival and failure. The same is true for many businesses and hotels around the region, as anyone who has ever tried to book accommodation in the weeks before the race can attest.

The economics of racing

The economic impact of a MotoGP race is huge. A 2012 research paper by Maria Luisa Martí Selva and Rosa Puertas Medina, published in the Spanish Estudios de Economia Applicada, calculated the economic benefit of the final MotoGP round of 2010 at Valencia. The 80,774 fans who officially attended the race (about 30,000 less than attended this year's race) paid just over €5 million in tickets, and spent nearly €14,5 million in the region on accommodation, food, transport, entertainment, and merchandising. Over €8 million of that went on accommodation, food, and entertainment.

The Valencia race alone generates 0.24% of the GDP of the Valencia Autonomous Community, a region which contains some of the most popular tourist destinations in Eastern Spain. That explains why so many regions are prepared to invest in circuits, and in many cases, financially subsidize the sanctioning fee for the event.

The Dutch TT at Assen does not receive direct subsidy for the race, the circuit pays the sanctioning fee entirely out of its own pocket. But, circuit president Arjan Bos told us, they had reached agreement with the Province of Drenthe (which is home to the circuit) to invest in upgrading the spectator facilities at the circuit. In the period through 2021, facilities are to be improved around the track, with new grandstands being built, more catering options added, entertainment areas created, and roads inside the car parking areas and track paved. All of the changes will benefit spectators, with the track remaining unchanged.

Improving Turn 1

The operation is to take place in two stages. The first phase, already started and due to last until 2019, will see the grandstands at the Haarbocht (Turn 1), Stekkenwal (Turn 8), De Bult (Turn 9), and Winterdijk (the section between the Ramshoek and final GT Chicane) replaced, as well as paving interior roads and creating entertainment areas. The total cost of the first phase is €8 million, with the Province of Drenthe contributing half of that.

The first and most significant upgrade will be the new grandstand being built at the Haarbocht. Currently, the seating there consists of plastic bucket seats on an earth bank. The new grandstand will have approximately the same capacity, of 9700 spectators. But the seating will be more comfortable and more spacious, and raised up higher on a steel and concrete custom-made grandstand. Lifts and stairs will provide access to the grandstand, and there will be catering spaces underneath it, serving both at the front and the rear, so fans can buy food and drinks while bikes are on track without missing out on the action.

The good news for fans is that despite the new grandstand being a major upgrade in terms of comfort, prices for seats there will not be raised to cover the costs. "This is all about customer loyalty,"circuit director Peter Oosterbaan told me. "I want to make sure that the fans have such a great day out that they will want to come back again the following year. I have a waiting list for the main grandstands and the GT grandstand. I want a waiting list for this grandstand too," he said.

Improving the view

The Haarbocht grandstand will not be covered, but the top deck will house a special VIP area, where companies can entertain guests. The top deck offers a fantastic view, as I experienced when handed a VR headset provided by LG Architects, the firm who are building the grandstand. From the top deck, fans can see all of Assen's North Loop, from the front straight, around the Haarbocht to the Strubben, and out onto the Veenslang. Fans sitting in the grandstand will have a similar view, with more visible the higher up they sit.

The increased height of the grandstand will also help reduce noise from the circuit. The architects have modeled the effect of the grandstand on noise, and because the new grandstand is taller, more noise is directed upwards, rather than north towards residential estates near Assen. The reduction is small, of course, but with noise around circuits such a sensitive subject, even small reductions are a welcome effect.

Work on the grandstand had already started when I visited on 6th December, and the aim is to have the grandstand finished by the start of June, in time for the MotoGP race on 25th June. Fans attending the WorldSBK round on 30th April are likely to have to wait another year.

Phase 2

Once the Haarbocht grandstand is finished, work will start on the next grandstands, at Winterdijk, De Bult, and Stekkenwal. These projects will take place in 2018 and 2019, but the design and planning work has not yet started. That will commence some time in 2017, with designs being based on the Haarbocht.

Another part of the project is the creation of entertainment areas behind the grandstands. The idea is to give fans something extra to do when the riders are not on track. There are already a few sections like that at Assen, but this is to be expanded and greatly improved. This, along with all of the other changes, is aimed at improving the visitor experience at the track.

Traditionalists may fear that all these changes will detract from the traditional character of the circuit. Assen's grass banks are a fundamental part of the experience, and a great place to view the action from. Circuit director Peter Oosterbaan insisted they won't be removed. "I always used to sit on the grass banks when I came as a fan many years ago," he told me. They are part of the history of Assen, and will remain so.

All of these changes were only made possible due to the long-term commitment which the Assen circuit has from Dorna. At this year's MotoGP race, Dorna and the TT Circuit announced an extension of the contract through 2026. The importance of the race cannot be overstated. "The board always have one primary objective," circuit president Arjan Bos told us, "to keep the MotoGP race in Assen." But the event is just as important for Dorna, as it is the circuit to have appeared uninterrupted on the calendar since the start of the championship in 1949. "They tell us that for the sake of history, this Grand Prix can never disappear from the calendar."

Below are a selection of design sketches of the new grandstand, from the architects.

Haarbocht grandstand, front view
Haarbocht grandstand, front view

Haarbocht grandstand, view from the stands
Haarbocht grandstand, view from the stands

Haarbocht grandstands, looking north
Haarbocht grandstands, looking north

Haarbocht grandstand, rear view
Haarbocht grandstand, rear view

Haarbocht grandstand, next to the main grandstand
Haarbocht grandstand, next to the main grandstand


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4th Edition Of Barcelona Superprestigio To Take Place On 17th December

The Barcelona Superprestigio has proven to be a popular staple of the winter break. The indoor flat track race, which takes place at the Palau Sant Jordi, is returning for its fourth edition on 17th December. Once again, the stars of the MotoGP, World Superbikes and Endurance will take on the cream of dirt track and off-road disciplines. Former winners Marc Marquez and Brad Baker face off for the fourth time.

The event follows the formula which has been so successful in the past. The field is divided into two classes: the Superprestigio class, which features some of the best asphalt riders in the world; and the Open class, in which the best of the off-road world will compete. Marc Marquez leads the Superprestigio class, which also features his brother Alex, former Moto2 champion and current AMA Superbike rider Toni Elias, World Superbike stars Jordi Torres and Xavi Fores, former World Superbike star Ruben Xaus, World Endurance star Vincent Philippe, Moto2 men Xavi Vierge, Marcel Schrotter and Xavier Simeon, and Moto3 stars Fabio Di Giannantonio, Joan Mir and Jorge Martin.

The Open class features riders from a wide range of off-road disciplines. Brad Baker is the main attraction, the former AMA Flat Track Grand Champion having attended every edition so far. Baker's AMA rival Jared Mees had intended to compete, but the American broke a collarbone while training, and will not be fit in time. Baker will face Speedway World Cup winner Fredrik Lindgren, former Supermoto champions Tom Chareyre and Sylvain Bidart, former Enduro junior world champion Oriol Mena, and a host of top European dirt trackers, including Ferran Cardus, Ollie Brindley, Allan Birtwistle, and Australian newcomer Tom Edwards.

The race is to be held at the Palau Sant Jordi, as it has been for the past four years. The indoor arena was originally built as part of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics complex, and sits atop the Montjuic hill, the site of the Spanish Grand Prix in 1968. Practice starts on Saturday morning at 11am, while doors open for the main racing at 4:30pm, with the first race due to kick off at 6:30pm. The Superfinal, in which the best riders from the Open class face the best of the Superprestigio class, closes out the night at 9:10pm.

The show is to be streamed live on the MotoGP.com website, as well as on Youtube, and the Superprestigio website with live commentary from WorldSBK commentator Greg Haines. A full time schedule is on the Superprestigio DTX Barcelona website, as well as a full entry list and news and updates. Tickets for the event start at €22, and can be purchased from the RPM Ticket website.

As we have done every year, MotoMatters.com will be on the scene and reporting from the event. To get into the mood, you can watch video of the full event from last year:

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MotoGP Rule Tweaks: Intermediate Tires Go, Extra Slick Added, Medical, Disciplinary Measures Tweaked

December is a time for reflection, and for making the necessary changes to the rulebook where incidents during the season have made clear. Last week, MotoGP's rule making body, the Grand Prix Commission met to review the 2016 season and make a few necessary adjustments to the MotoGP rulebook. Fortunately, they decided not to do anything quite so drastic as the Superbike Commission did at the same time.

The most eye-catching change is the dropping of intermediate tires in MotoGP. Intermediates had been introduced at the request of the teams and Dorna, to allow riders to go out during sessions when conditions were not suitable for slicks. However, the experience of 2016 showed that intermediates were rarely used, and when they were, they added little or no value over soft slicks or hard wets. During a press conference at Valencia, Michelin boss Nicolas Goubert said "at some races, there were riders on track with slicks, with intermediate, and with rain tires, all at the same time."

The loss of the intermediate is to be compensated by an extra tire choice for both front and rear slicks. Though the total allocation is not to be increased, the riders will now have three front compounds, plus an option tire, and three rear compounds, plus an option tire, to choose from. Several times during 2016, Michelin was already bringing a choice of four front tires (i.e. three plus an option) to the races, so this is merely formalizing an already existing situation. The addition of an extra tire will most likely be at the soft end of the spectrum, to allow a soft slick to fill the void left by the loss of intermediates.

The remainder of the rule changes were less significant, though one or two merit mention. As the use of onboard cameras in Moto2 and Moto3 has grown, there were some complaints that bikes with cameras had an unfair disadvantage. Ballast is to be added to balance that out. 

An extra appeals board will be put in place at each track, to allow the FIM Stewards to hear appeals against penalties issued immediately, rather than having to wait for several days.

An interesting change has been made to the medical code, giving the riders a little more confidentiality over their medical records. As the Clinica Mobile has come to play a significant role in the  medical treatment of riders - many riders prefer to consult the Clinica, rather than their home doctors - there has been some dilution of medical privacy. That has led FIM doctors and Clinica staff to disclose information to the media, without the permission of the riders.

The new rule change is also in part a response to some of the more serious incidents in MotoGP, including the tragic death of Luis Salom. Chains of communication in such cases are now much clearer, with family members and teams being informed first, and only then statements being made to the media, with permission.

An important change was also made to the duties of a rider. They must now inform MotoGP medical staff if they pick up an injury outside of MotoGP events. For example, a rider breaking a bone or suffering a concussion in a training accident will have to inform MotoGP medical staff, and submit themselves for medical examination before being passed fit to race.

The FIM press release with the full minutes of the Grand Prix Commission appears  below:


FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Carlos Ezpeleta (Dorna), Mike Trimby (IRTA CEO, Secretary of the meeting), Paul Duparc (FIM), Mike Webb (Race Director), Danny Aldridge (Technical Director) and Corrado Cecchinelli (Director of Technology), in a meeting held in Madrid on 2 December 2016, made the following decisions:

Effective Season 2017

Technical Regulations

Dummy Cameras/Weights in Moto3 and Moto2
Currently the top six riders in Moto3 and Moto2 are required to carry on board cameras. It is considered that the additional weight involved in classes where machine performance is so equal could disadvantage riders required to carry the cameras. It will now be a requirement for other machines not equipped with actual cameras to carry dummy versions or weights, in the same positions.

Whilst there will be no change in the minimum machine/rider weight in Moto3, in the Moto2 class the minimum weight will be increased by two kilos to 217 kilos.

Tyre Allocations – MotoGP Class
After consultation with the Safety Commission and with the approval of Michelin, tyre allocations have been changed.

Intermediate tyres will no longer be available.

The maximum number of wet and dry track tyres remains unchanged but there is an additional specification of front and rear dry slick tyres available to choose.

Sporting Regulations

Moto2 and Moto3 Testing
The regulation limiting the days of private testing has been clarified and now applies exclusively to contracted riders. Teams may test with any contracted rider at any circuit for a maximum of ten days per rider during the season, in addition to official tests and tests in November after the last event.

Race Start Procedure
Any rider who arrives at the grid behind the safety car after completing his warm up lap must now enter the pit lane and start the race from the pit lane exit.

Speeding in Pit Lane
Following instances of certain riders breaking pit lane speed limits several times during the same event the conclusion was that the current penalty of €150.00 per offence was not a sufficient deterrent. In future, the fine for the first offence will be €200.00 but second and subsequent offences can be penalised with larger fines or other penalties determined, according to circumstances, by the FIM MotoGP Stewards.

Restarted Races
The regulations will be modified to make it clear that when a race is interrupted after less than three laps have been completed, all riders may start including riders who might not have completed the sighting or warm up lap for the original start.

Officials
At all Grand Prix events the Clerk of the Course and the Chief Medical Officer must be holders of the relevant FIM Superlicence.

Track Safety
In reaction to recent incidents, it is no longer permitted for track marshals to clean the track or alter the condition of the racing surface without prior instructions or authorisation from the Race Director and the Safety Officer.

Disciplinary Matters

The function and responsibilities of the Race Direction and the FIM MotoGP Stewards remain unchanged. Race Direction, which comprises the Race Director, the FIM Representative and a Dorna representative have no role in the application of penalties but may refer matters to the FIM MotoGP Stewards comprising the Race Director, a permanent FIM Steward and a second FIM Steward appointed by rotation.

The change involves the creation of a second tier of “Appeal Stewards” comprising an additional Steward appointed by the FIM and a second Steward appointed by the FMNR. The Appeal Stewards will be present at every event and will hear appeals against any decisions of the FIM MotoGP Stewards. This means that in virtually all cases results and sanctions can be confirmed or annulled during the event. (Previously, appeals against decisions of the FIM MotoGP Stewards could only be heard by the FIM Court of Appeal which was not present at events and had four days to reach a decision).

Medical Code

Various changes have been made to the FIM Medical Code including giving the FIM Medical Officer more power and responsibility to ensure that medical facilities and staff are adequate and competent to deal with injured riders.

The code has also reinforced the right of injured riders to have confidentiality respected about their condition. Medical staff or race officials are no longer authorised to make statements to any third party, other than immediate relatives, about the condition of injured riders without the authorisation of the FIM and Dorna.

Reacting to numerous recent incidents where riders have been injured at events other than MotoGP, or in training, riders will now be responsible for notifying the relevant FIM Medical Officer and the CMO of any injury or illness that might affect his/her ability to ride or compete.


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

http://www.fim-live.com/en/sport/regulations-and-documents/grand-prix/

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