Latest News

MotoGP Rules Update: Stewards Disciplinary Panel Confirmed, Tire Pressure Sensors Mandatory

As we reported on Tuesday, changes are to be made to Race Direction. At a meeting in Geneva on Thursday, the Grand Prix Commission decided to change the way disciplinary matters are handled by Race Direction. For this season, a separate body is to be set up to handle all incidents on track requiring disciplinary action. These issues have been handled by Race Direction until now, but the incident at Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez led to calls for such decisions to be taken away from Race Direction, to allow quicker decisions to be made.

From the start of the 2016 season, all disciplinary matters will be dealt with by a separate panel, consisting of three people. One of those will be Mike Webb, who as MotoGP Race Director is ultimately responsible for all aspects of the MotoGP race. Mike Webb will be joined by two stewards appointed by the FIM. Those stewards have yet to be appointed, and the press release issued by the FIM does not make clear whether the stewards will be appointed permanently, for a full season, or for each race individually. In the case of an incident which needs to be investigated by the panel of stewards, Mike Webb will hand over his duties as Race Director to a newly appointed deputy, Graham Webber.

The agreement to appoint a panel of stewards was much more complicated than expected. Throughout the course of the MotoGP test at Sepang, the various parties involved - FIM, the manufacturers, and Dorna - submitted a range of proposals, varying from the extremely intrusive and limiting to the more moderate proposals which were eventually adopted. The problem centers around the interpretation of rule 1.21.2, which covers the behavior of riders during the race:

2. Riders must ride in a responsible manner which does not cause danger to other competitors or participants, either on the track or in the pit-lane. Any infringement of this rule will be penalised with one of the following penalties: penalty points - fine - change of position - ride through – time penalty – drop of any number of grid position at the rider’s next race – disqualification - withdrawal of Championship points - suspension.

The wording is vague, and has been left deliberately so, as to try to narrow down a definition of exactly what comprises irresponsible riding would open more loopholes than it would close, and lead to more appeals against sanctions imposed. Under the old adage that hard cases make bad law, each and every possible infringement would have to be described in detail, which would lead either to riders pleading that their actions were subtly different to those described in the rules, and that they should they should go unpunished, or it would lead to absolute paralysis by riders, afraid to attempt a pass for fear of being penalized.

The problem with the existing system was that Dorna's Javier Alonso is a member of Race Direction, as the representative in charge of organizing all MotoGP events. Though Alonso has never previously been accused of showing any bias or favoritism, or of shaping events to fit in to Dorna's schedule, the accusations of pro-Spanish bias after the incident at Sepang raised concerns about Alonso having a say in disciplinary proceedings. To avoid any such accusations in the future, Alonso has been removed from the disciplinary equation.

The FIM press release also contains a rather strange and intriguing sentence about the communication of sanctions to the teams. According to the release, they are to be communicated via "a secure E-mail [sic] system with automated confirmation that the message has been read'. How the email is to be secured is unspecified, as is how the read confirmation is to be achieved. It also suggests that some teams were claiming not to have read emails from Race Direction containing notification of sanctions. 

The creation of the stewards panel was not the only decision agreed upon during the Grand Prix Commission meeting. Another disciplinary measure was introduced: from this season, riders who skip their promotional obligations will not just face fines, but can be punished using the penalty point system as well. To this end, their obligations are to become part of the rules, instead of just set out in the contracts between teams and Dorna. The promotional activities are deeply unpopular with most of the riders, though most participate nonetheless. The threat of penalty points is aimed at coercing riders who are rich enough to view fines as a cheap price to pay for getting out of promotional activities.

Perhaps the most important rule adopted by the Grand Prix Commission was introducing greater control over tire pressures. Eventually, tire pressure sensors will be compulsory, but the details of how that is to be achieved is still to be worked out by the MSMA and Michelin. Until that is arranged, the technical marshals at each race will have the authority to monitor and check tire pressures at all points during the weekend. The new rule was brought in after the rear tire of Loris Baz' Avintia Ducati exploded at high speed down the front straight at Sepang as a result of too low a tire pressure being used.

The final rule of interest is the change to Moto2 quickshifters. A single supplier is to be appointed for quickshifters, but only after a plan has been worked out allowing all Moto2 teams to swap to the spec quickshifter. The rule is aimed at preventing the smarter Moto2 teams from exploiting the extra functionality which some quickshifter hardware offers, and from preventing gearbox problems caused by some quickshifters. Those two facts are sometimes related, as Moto2 teams have been chasing minimal ignition cuts during gear changes, allowing the rear wheel to be driven for as long as possible. The shorter the ignition cut, the greater the stress on the gearbox. 

Below is the press release from the FIM with the changes to the rules:


FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Vito Ipollito (President FIM), Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on February 4 in Geneva, made the following decisions:

Sporting Regulations

Effective Immediately

Race Direction and Stewards

The composition of Race Direction will remain unchanged with three members; Mike Webb (Race Director), Franco Uncini (FIM) and Javier Alonso (Dorna). However there will be a new appointment of Graham Webber as Deputy Race Director who will deputise for the Race Director when he is otherwise occupied.

Race Direction will continue to be primarily responsible for the efficient and safe running of events. However, the competence of Race Direction concerning the application of sanctions and penalties will be limited to those offences that can be considered as being indisputable matters of fact. These would include such offences as pit lane speeding, passing under yellow flags, etc.

All other issues requiring further analysis of actions, including any incidences of dangerous riding, will be reviewed by the Stewards who will exclusively be responsible for issuing any sanctions and penalties on those matters. The Stewards will also be responsible for hearing any appeals and receiving any protests. The panel of Stewards will comprise three members; Mike Webb and two other members appointed by the FIM. Mike Webb will be responsible for co-ordinating the activities of the Stewards, maintaining records and communicating decisions.

In future, any sanctions imposed by Race Direction or the Stewards will be communicated to the affected team by a secure E-mail system with automated confirmation that the message has been read. Confirmed penalties will also be displayed on timekeeping monitors and advised to the media.

Promotional Obligations for Riders

A number of obligations for riders to participate in promotional activities, already contained in the Participation Agreements between IRTA and the Teams, will now also be included in the Grand Prix regulations. Such obligations include the requirement for riders to participate in autograph signing sessions, press conferences, parade laps, etc. The effect is that non-compliance by riders can now result in sporting penalties in addition to the financial penalties contained in the Participation Agreements.

Technical Regulations

Effective Immediately

MotoGP Class Electronics

The procedure which enables the Technical Director to check specific maintenance channels on the internal datalogger, together with the precise list of compulsory channels available to him, was approved.

The homologation procedure for sensors available from third party suppliers as well as those made by the motorcycle manufacturers was approved.

MotoGP Class Minimum Tyre Pressures

Existing regulations on this matter have been reinforced enabling the Technical Director and his staff, assisted by the engineers of the official tyre supplier, to check that minimum tyre pressures are respected.

Ultimately, such information will be recorded automatically via the datalogger and be available via download by the technical staff. However, as the equipment and method of electronically recording the information has still to be finalised the technical staff and the staff of the official tyre supplier are now authorised to manually verify tyre pressures at any time.

Moto2 Class Quickshift Equipment

It has been identified that certain gearbox malfunctions in the Championship supplied engines are largely attributable to some of the quickshift components produced by third party suppliers. The Technical Director, in consultation with Externpro, will specify a brand and model of a proprietary quickshift product from a third party supplier that will be mandatory for this class. Actual implementation of this regulation will be enforced when the Technical Director is satisfied that all teams have had sufficient time to acquire the new material.

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/

Sepang Clash Fallout - Race Direction To Be Altered

Race Direction is to be altered in the wake of the clash in Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. A proposal to split the responsibilities of Race Direction is to be adopted at the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission to be held on Thursday. 

The proposal will see the responsibility for disciplinary matters removed from the current four members of Race Direction, and placed in the hands of a separate panel of stewards. Race Direction will continue to be in charge of all aspects of running the race, including marshalling and safety, but incidents between riders will be investigated by the new panel. They will be charged with judging all incidents of unfair play, and especially of violations of rule 1.21.2, which mandates responsible behavior by the riders on track.

Exactly who will be in the panel is unclear at the moment, but the aim is not to have any Dorna staff in it. The fact that Javier Alonso, a senior executive of Dorna and one of the inner circle at the heart of the company, sits in Race Direction has occasionally been a concern from some of the manufacturers, with accusations of bias surfacing on occasion.

Those accusations went into overdrive after the incident between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez at Sepang. The Italian media, especially, accused Dorna of unfairly punishing Valentino Rossi in the affair, in an attempt to influence the outcome of the 2015 championship, and wanting a Spanish winner.

Such accusations are plainly insane. The marketing value to Dorna of a tenth title for Valentino Rossi is immeasurably greater than having any Spaniard win, let alone Jorge Lorenzo. If Dorna were to want a particular outcome, and try to influence it, they would have favored Rossi over Marquez. 

Furthermore, throughout the entire history of Race Direction in its current form, there has never been an issue with pressure from Dorna inside Race Direction. Reports from those involved say that Javier Alonso has never put pressure on Race Direction to choose a particular outcome. Alonso's priority has always been to ensure that the race was run safely and fairly, reflecting the priorities of the other members of Race Direction, consisting of Safety Officer Loris Capirossi, FIM representative Franco Uncini, and Race Director Mike Webb. To preempt any suggestions of bias, and to fend off the concerns of the manufacturers, the Grand Prix Commission is to adopt this new system of two separate bodies.

Whether the new body makes any difference remains to be seen. The effectiveness of the new panel will stand and fall on the ability and reputation of the people engaged to fill it, and their experience in the field. They will be measured against the experience of the current Race Direction, all of whom have vast experience in MotoGP in their roles with Race Direction.

The instigation of a new body is unlikely to remove the allegations of bias. It is hard to see how the Sepang incident could have been handled differently. Though there were calls from the media and from fans both during the race and afterwards for Rossi to be black flagged or given a ride through penalty, Race Direction would have been accused of acting hastily if they had done so. By waiting until after the race had finished, taking their time to review the footage from as many angles as possible (and Race Direction has access to a lot more camera angles than the live TV broadcast), and talking to both riders and all parties involved. That allowed them to make a considered and careful decision, which accurately reflected the events on the track. A new disciplinary body would be expected to be just as thorough and cautious in taking a decision with such major implications for the championship.

The creation of a new body appears to be a kneejerk reaction to a situation which spiraled out of control due to the profile of the riders involved. It looks more like Dorna coming under pressure to do something, and deciding that being seen to do something was more important than actually taking account of how necessary such action might be. There are few signs that the new panel will do a better job than the current Race Direction, and plenty of opportunity for the new panel to get it wrong. There may not be an employee of Dorna in the new panel, but the new panel will be just as dependent on Dorna for its financing, and its members will be paid by the Spanish organizer, just as the members of Race Direction are.

Like the Rookie Rule, this feels like a measure that will be reversed within a few years. It adds nothing beyond added complexity and the chance for more things to go wrong.

KTM Build Moto2 Bike - Look To Expand Across All Three Grand Prix Classes

KTM have surprised the Grand Prix world by announcing that they have built a complete Moto2 bike, together with their partners WP. The Austrian manufacturer is to give the bike its first rollout at Almeria this week, and announced the existence of the bike on Sunday.

The existence of KTM's Moto2 project had been kept a closely guarded secret, and came as a surprise to many. The fact that Moto2 uses a spec Honda CBR600RR engine has been a huge obstacle to manufacturers wanting to get involved in the class. Aprilia had originally planned to enter Moto2, but decided against it for this very reason.

KTM have decided to view Moto2 as part of a wider strategy in Grand Prix. After the success of their Moto3 project, and with their MotoGP project due to make its debut in 2017, having a representative in the intermediate class would provide a path for KTM to bring young talent through the ranks. That strategy is already being played out in part the Ajo team, who run the factory Red Bull KTM project in Moto3, and run 2015 world champion Johann Zarco in Moto2. The Ajo team are the logical partners for KTM when they enter MotoGP next season. 

Having a Moto2 bike would complete KTM's line up. The Austrian manufacturer appears to have accepted that to enter Moto2, they will have to build a bike to house an engine not manufactured by them. 

That may change from 2019. Honda's contract to supply the spec Moto2 engine ends after the 2018 season, and Honda have indicated that they are not interested in continuing. There has been speculation as to what could replace the current Moto2 engine configuration, but anyone hoping the class could be open to competition is likely to be disappointed. The Moto2 teams are dead set against any changes to the spec engine situation, because of the incredibly low cost of competing in Moto2. It is considerably cheaper to race in Moto2 than it is in Moto3, because of the price of machinery, despite attempts at capping costs in the junior class. As one senior factory figure put it this week, the cost of competition is directly proportional to manufacturer interest in a class.

Below is the press release issued by KTM:


READY TO RACE: WP PERFORMANCE SYSTEMS & KTM SHARE MOTO2 PROJECT

WP Performance Systems will begin testing an own motorcycle this week, which together with KTM, is being developed for the Moto2 World Championship. The aim is to close the gap between activities in the Moto3 World Championship and the MotoGP class.

WP Performance Systems, like KTM, Husqvarna and Pankl belong to Cross Industries AG. The company headquarters are located in Austria’s Munderfing right next door to the KTM Factory Racing Division. In addition to the series production of suspension elements, cooling systems, frames and exhausts, motorsports is one of the most important areas of WP’s business. Last season WP, with Johann Zarco, won the Moto2 World Championship for the first time using in-house developed suspension elements. Inspired by this excellent cooperation, the group has now energized the two companies to join together to advance to the obvious next level in the shared Moto2 project.

On behalf of KTM, WP has already produced all the chassis for the Moto3 teams and for the successful Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. For KTM’s MotoGP project, WP has manufactured many of the extremely specialized components, right up to the chassis. Now the WP Racing Department is developing a complete motorcycle for the Moto2 World Championship. The first roll-out was today at the Spanish circuit at Almeria.

Stefan Pierer (CEO Cross Industries AG): “The Moto2 project has a great significance for us. Through our growth and long-term investments we are in a position to close this final gap in our activities in the sport of Grand Prix road racing. A young rider can gather his first experience in the Rookies Cup and then advance to our own in-house Moto3 team, then further, via the new Moto2 project into the MotoGP class. These are concepts that have repeatedly proved to be successful for KTM and WP in professional racing, and in the future we want to have riders for our MotoGP project that have advanced right through the entire KTM Academy.”

Casey Stoner Makes MotoGP Return At Private Ducati Test - Will Ride In Official Sepang Test

Casey Stoner got the first testing miles of his return to Ducati under his belt on Saturday. The Australian started slowly and steadily doing a lot of short runs to get a feel for the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, on which he spent most of the day, before upping the pace later in the afternoon. Journalists present at the test said Stoner looked a little stiff in his early laps, not getting either elbow or knee down, but soon started to relax, and look more like his old self.

He had every reason to be wary: the last time Stoner rode a race bike on the road was during the Suzuka 8 Hours, where a throttle cable malfunction saw him thrown from the bike, injuring his scapula and tibia in the process. Furthermore, this was his first time on a MotoGP bike for a year, his first time riding the Ducati GP15 - a very different beast indeed to the GP10, the last Ducati Stoner raced - and his first time on the Michelins. Despite that, he told reporters he was very happy with how the test went. "I haven't ridden one of these bikes in over a year," Stoner said. "Haven't ridden Michelins. New bike. Everything. So I'm really surprised by the end of the day how we got on with it."

Stoner praised the both the power and the power delivery of the Desmosedici. It had "grunt everywhere," Stoner said. He was also positive about the aerodynamics and the stability of the bike under braking. All of the bike was very good, and he had been surprised at just how comfortable he had felt on the bike.

Stoner was also asked about the spec electronics, and how they felt. He had been impressed at just how good the spec software already was, he said. The electronics felt as good as they were just a couple of years ago, rather than the eight or nine which Valentino Rossi had said. Stoner felt that if anything, the electronics were still too good. What was needed was to go back to the electronics of 2006, where they have very limited influence.

No official times were released, though Stoner was apparently not too far off the pace. The fastest lap recorded by Peter McLaren of Crash.net was 2'03, but McLaren said he had only sampled a few laps, not every single lap which the Australian put in. Italian Sky TV commentator Guido Meda claimed that Stoner's fastest lap was a 2'02.1, set on the GP15 using old tires previously used by Ducati's other test rider Michele Pirro. 2'02.1 is entirely respectable for Stoner's first time back on the bike after such a long time away, and on a machine which is entirely new to him. The race lap record is a 2'00.606 set by Jorge Lorenzo during the 2015 race, while the pole record is held by Dani Pedrosa, who set a 1'59.053. During testing last year, Marc Marquez set an unofficial record of 1'58.867, but that was after three days of testing, and on Bridgestone tires. 

Despite being relatively quick, Stoner once again emphasized he had no real interest in a return to racing. "I'm not here to kick start my career," he told reporters. Instead, he saw his role as doing everything he could to help Ducati achieve the results he believed they deserved. A wildcard would provide an ideal test environment, he said, but he had no intention of doing one at the moment. For a full report on what Casey Stoner said at Sepang, see Peter McLaren's story over on Crash.net.

Stoner was due to continue his test on Sunday, but a last-minute change of plan after a debrief with Ducati engineers sees him sitting out the second day of the private test. Instead, Stoner will take part in the official IRTA test at Sepang, due to run from 1st to 3rd February. Ducati decided they had other things that needed testing on Sunday and Monday, and that was best left to Michele Pirro.

Below is the press release from Ducati on the first day of private testing with Michele Pirro and Casey Stoner:


Stoner returns to the track at Sepang for his first run as Ducati Team test-rider

Casey Stoner returned to the track today on the Ducati Desmosedici GP of the Ducati Team at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia. It was a welcome return for the Australian rider, two-time MotoGP World Champion, who had not ridden a Ducati since the Valencia round in 2010. Stoner completed a total of 54 laps on the 2015 model Desmosedici GP machine, setting a best time of 2m02.1s on his final run late in the afternoon.

Michele Pirro also went out on track this morning, but just for a few laps. The Italian rider tested a 2016-spec Desmosedici GP bike fully equipped with instruments and sensors and also carried out a fuel consumption test.

Both Ducati test-riders will be back on track tomorrow for the last day of private testing, before the official IRTA test that runs thru February 1-3.

Casey Stoner (Ducati Desmosedici GP #27)

“It’s been a really good experience today with the Ducati Team. I wasn’t too sure what to expect but everybody has been fantastic, welcoming me and working with me to try and get the best out of myself and this bike. I need some time to get back to speed and get the feeling back, because I haven’t ridden a MotoGP bike for one year and any bike at all for six months. It was a very productive first day, we got comfortable with the bike and the tyres a lot more quickly than I thought I would. We’ve got a lot of things to test and get myself a little bit more acquainted with the bike but generally I’m very happy. The Desmosedici GP has a lot of potential, hopefully we can give the right input and help the two Andreas to try and achieve something great this year. I’m pretty happy and surprised with my lap time to be honest, hopefully the next day we can be a bit more comfortable after sleeping on it. It’s been fantastic working with Gabriele (Conti) again and with Marco (Palmerini) and Gigi (Dall’Igna): everyone has been really professional. So far, so good!”

Michele Pirro (Ducati Desmosedici GP #51)

“Today I only did a few laps because the schedule only included a test of electronic components followed by one for fuel economy, so once I had finished my work, the team concentrated on Casey’s debut. Tomorrow we’ll do a few more things before the first of the three days of official tests that get underway on Monday. The feeling is good and even on Wednesday we managed to do a good job. I am sure that we can get some good results, and having tested both Iannone’s and Dovizioso’s bikes I feel confident, despite the fact that the track conditions here are not very good.”

Jack Miller To Miss Sepang MotoGP Test, Tito Rabat Sole Marc VDS Racing Representative

Jack Miller is to miss the Sepang MotoGP test, due to start on Monday, 1st February. The Australian broke bones in his right leg during a motocross training accident two weeks ago, and will not be fit in time for the opening three-day test of the 2016 MotoGP season. Miller is continuing his recovery, and already back in training, working on his fitness with the aim of being ready to participate in the second MotoGP test, at Phillip Island in his native Australia, on 17th February.

Miller's absence means that Tito Rabat will be the sole representative of the Marc VDS team. The MotoGP rookie and former Moto2 champion will be focusing on his adaptation to the premier class, working methodically to understand the Michelin tires and spec electronics which are to be used for the 2016 season. Rabat has swapped his Kalex Moto2 machine for a Honda CBR1000RR, and has spent the off season preparing by riding around Almeria's new layout on the Fireblade.

Below is the press release from the Marc VDS Racing Team announcing Miller's absence:


Rabat ready to get the season underway in Sepang

Gosselies, Belgium – 28 January 2016: Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS head to Malaysia this weekend, to get their 2016 MotoGP campaign underway with a three-day test at the Sepang International Circuit.

Jack Miller will miss the first test in Malaysia after sustaining a fractured right tibia and fibula in a training accident less than two weeks ago. The 21-year-old Australian had successful surgery to stabilise the injury and is already back training in a bid to be fit for the Phillip Island test on 17th February.

Miller’s absence means that Tito Rabat will be the sole Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider in Sepang. The former Moto2 World Champion started his familiarisation with the Honda RC213V and Michelin tyres during a two-day test at Valencia last year, but Sepang will be the first opportunity for Rabat to test the bike with the control ECU and unified software that is now mandatory in the premier class.

The Sepang test gets underway on Monday 1st February, with extensive video coverage from all three days available on the official MotoGP website at www.motogp.com.

Tito Rabat:

“I’m looking forward to getting back to work in Malaysia. The aim of the first test is simple; to get back the feeling with the bike and tyres after a break of more than two months since the Valencia test. Sepang is also another opportunity to continue improving the communication and the way I work with my new crew after such a good start in Valencia. If I can improve my feeling and my confidence with the bike with each exit in Sepang then I will leave the first test of 2016 satisfied. I’m facing a steep learning curve this season, so I need to take profit from all nine days of testing before racing gets underway in Qatar.”

Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal

“We know from working with him in Moto2 that Tito has a very controlled and methodical approach to testing and I think that will serve him well as he continues his transition to MotoGP. We’re not looking for a massive jump in performance from Tito in Sepang, but rather a steady improvement as he starts to understand the capabilities of the bike and the tyres better. He has a lot to take in, as Sepang will be the first time he tests the bike with the control ECU and the unified software, but I’m confident that he will take it in his stride. It’s unfortunate that Jack is unable to test in Sepang but we are hopeful that he will have recovered sufficiently to join us at Phillip Island for the second of the three preseason tests.”

2016 Aprilia RS-GP MotoGP Machine Not Ready for Sepang

Aprilia's MotoGP project has suffered a setback. The 2016 version of their RS-GP MotoGP machine will not be ready in time for the first official IRTA test at Sepang, according to a report by Crash.net's Neil Morrison. Instead, it will make its debut in a private test at Qatar, ahead of the third preseason test of 2016, with its first public outing coming in that third and final test, two weeks before the start of the 2016 season.

The delay is a sign that the project is at least a couple of weeks behind schedule. At Valencia, Aprilia spokespersons said that the original plan was to hold a shakedown test at a private Italian racetrack, with the bike making its public debut in Sepang. Designing a radically new bike is taking longer than expected, however: the 2016 machine will be a brand new prototype, designed from the ground up, at least 10kg lighter than the current RS-GP, and is rumored to have a different angle between the cylinders. That is an incredibly complex and time-consuming process, so delays are not entirely unexpected.

Aprilia's test plan has now been altered. Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl will travel to Sepang for the first test, where they will work on the Michelin tires and spec electronics using last year's RS-GP machine, still based on the RSV4 World Superbike engine. The pair will then skip the Phillip Island test from 17th to 19th February, and have a private test in Qatar, ahead of the final test before the start of the season.

Skipping Phillip Island had always been part of the plan anyway, according to the German language website Speedweek. Originally, Bradl and Bautista were to test the bike at the first Sepang test, then return there a couple of weeks later for a private test. However, the resurfacing which is to take place at Sepang made that impossible. Instead, Aprilia will visit Qatar twice, achieving the same objective, allowing better comparison of the changes made between the tests.

Marc Marquez Severs Ties To Valentino Rossi, Ends Merchandising Contract

The feud between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez shows no signs of abating. It emerged today that Marquez has severed a number of links which tied him to the Italian, including ending prematurely a contract for merchandise with Rossi's VR46 Racing Apparel company, and ending his lease of accommodation in the GP Rooms portable hotel run by the Nieto family.

The news, broken by Speedweek and confirmed to MotoMatters.com by sources with knowledge of the situation, is a reversal of reports from Valencia last year. Then, Spanish websites were reporting that Valentino Rossi had decided to terminate the contract, at the end of the second year of its three year term. Those reports were denied, but now it appears that it is Marquez who has decided he does not want Rossi's VR46 business selling his merchandise. Marquez' management and VR46 are currently in negotiations to terminate the contract, with the VR46 company wanting financial compensation for Marquez' decision to terminate the contract prematurely. Marquez will want the situation to be resolved quickly, and certainly before the first European round in Jerez, where he can expect to sell a large amount of merchandise to Spanish fans.

The reasons for Marquez wanting to end his association with the VR46 Racing Apparel are easy to guess. The aftermath of the Sepang situation has shaken Marquez' faith in the agreement, and the Spaniard does not now believe he can trust his dealings with Rossi. Though the VR46 Racing Apparel is an entirely separate company, which Rossi has little to do with directly, it is run by senior members of Valentino Rossi's official fan club. Marquez may fear that some of the emotions generated during the 2015 championship will spill over into the merchandising business and negatively affect it.

Marquez' management has engaged the services of the GP Racing Apparel company, run by the Gruppo Pritelli. The Italian company, based in Cattolica, near the Misano circuit, also handles merchandise for several other major MotoGP stars, including Jorge Lorenzo, Nicky Hayden, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, Andrea Iannone, and, in a mild irony, Rossi's late friend Marco Simoncelli. 

It is not just the merchandising business which is affected by the antipathy between Rossi and Marquez. As reported by the Spanish website Motocuatro.com, Marquez has also decided that he will no longer rent a room in the GP Rooms mobile hotels run by the Nieto family. The GP Rooms mobile hotels offer minimal space (little more than a bed and a closet) with the convenience of being located in the MotoGP paddock. Previously, that was all Marquez needed, as the Spaniard spent all of his time at the track with his team, either in the garage, or in the race truck. In this respect, Marquez is very different to nearly all other riders, who tend to spend most of their time in their motorhomes. Marquez has always needed to feel part of a team, and so spends all of his time with his mechanics and crew chief.

However, relations with the Nieto family have become extremely strained since Sepang. Pablo Nieto is team manager of the VR46 Sky Moto3 team, putting him firmly in the wrong camp, as far as Marquez is concerned. Thirteen-time world champion Angel Nieto had been very ambiguous in his judgment of the incident during the Sepang race in his capacity as TV expert with Telecinco, which had not gone down well with Marquez. But worst of all, Fonsi Nieto - personal friend of Valentino Rossi, with whom he spends time on the island of Ibiza during the summer, where Fonsi is a renowned DJ  - had taken sides very clearly with Rossi after Sepang, offering an interpretation of events which backed Rossi's version completely on Spanish TV. With both Marquez brothers using the GP Rooms mobile hotel, costing approximately €25,000 per rider for a season, Marc Marquez felt he did not want to spend his money with the Nieto family any longer.

Instead, the two Marquez brothers will share a motorhome at MotoGP events for the 2016 season. They are currently in the process of sourcing and having a motorhome prepared for the upcoming season. Though neither rider will spend much time in the motorhome, the advantage of having one is having a space where the riders can hold meetings with sponsors and others in private.

Why has Marquez been so vigorously severing business ties to everyone associated with Valentino Rossi? Clearly there is an issue of trust, especially with the VR46 Racing Apparel company, which is so closely associated with Rossi's official fan club. But there is also a matter of pride. Marquez was deeply hurt by the accusations made by Rossi during the Thursday press conference before Sepang, and the Italian has made the situation worse by keeping up a stream of accusations and insinuations ever since. He renewed his attacks at the Movistar Yamaha team launch in Barcelona, rubbing salt further into the wounds. As Marquez' reaction at Sepang demonstrated, the Spaniard does not respond well to what he regards as provocations, and his pride, and his ego, will not allow him to stay in business with people he believes are not on his side.

The continuing enmity does not bode well for peace being made between Rossi and Marquez any time soon. The two will run into each other at Sepang, for the first time since Valencia, and most likely, the pair will both be staying in the same hotel, sharing the breakfast room in the morning, the restaurant in the evening, as well as the gym. They may run across each other on track, an encounter which will be watched closely, and with much interest. Two more tests will follow, before they finally go head to head in earnest at the first race in Qatar. The atmosphere between the two will not be convivial, their former jocular demeanor gone. There are more likely to be fireworks than peace breaking out. Though Dorna will no doubt exploit the situation for maximum publicity value, it will remain a highly explosive situation. The media in both Italy and Spain are invested in trying to ignite the powder keg whenever possible, having both clearly taken sides in the dispute. 2016 has all the makings of a classic season, but it looks like it will also get very ugly from time to time. It will need careful management, but to be frank, nobody involved looks to be capable of providing that.

Jack Miller Breaks Leg In Training Incident - Doubtful For Sepang

Jack Miller has broken his right leg in a motocross training incident. The Australian was riding at the Bellpuig motocross track in Spain on Sunday, when he landed heavily, fracturing both the fibula and tibia down near the ankle joint. In a post on Instagram, Miller explained that he had been forced to shut off the throttle when another rider lost control on the up ramp of a triple jump. He had not crashed, but the impact of the landing had caused the damage to his ankle.

Miller was taken to the Dexeus Institut in Barcelona, where he was examined by Dr. Mir, and then had both the bones in his leg plated with screws. Examination after the surgery confirmed that it had been successful.

The injury to Miller does mean that his participation at the first test of the year at Sepang is in doubt. In a press release issued by the team (shown below), Marc VDS team manager Michael Bartholemy stressed the importance of waiting until the Australian was fit enough to ride. Miller himself was more bullish about the chances of riding, posting on Twitter that the "right foot to ride is way overrated" and joking that he uses too much rear brake anyway. The issue for Miller would be risking further injury, and whether he can put enough weight on the leg to help push on the pegs through the turns.

Normally, missing the first test of the year would be a major setback, but missing Sepang this year may be less of a problem for Miller. At the moment, it is unclear exactly what spec bikes the Honda satellite riders will have at the test, and the engineers will have their hands full just trying to get to grip with the new electronics. There is a lot of base set up work that needs doing, which the Marc VDS team will be able to do with Tito Rabat. The situation should be a lot clearer by the following test, at Phillip Island on 17th-19th February, giving Miller a better chance of being fit, and riding a Honda RC213V which is much closer to the final race spec for 2016.

The Marc VDS Racing press release on Miller's crash is shown below:


Jack Miller injured in training accident

Gosselies, Belgium – 19 January 2015: Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider, Jack Miller, was injured in a training accident at the Bellpuig motocross track on Sunday.

Following a detailed examination and x-rays at the Hospital University Quirón Dexeus in Barcelona, Doctor Xavier Mir confirmed that Miller had sustained fractures to both the tibia and fibula in his right leg in the accident.

The 21-year-old Australian had surgery this morning to stabilise the two fractures with compression plates and screws. Doctor Eugenio Gimeno carried out the procedure and the postoperative x-rays confirmed that the surgery had been successful.

Miller will remain under observation in the Hospital University Quirón Dexeus for the next 48 hours as he recovers from the surgery.

A decision as to whether Miller will participate in the first MotoGP test in Malaysia will be taken nearer the time, in conjunction with the rider and his medical team.

Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal

“Jack was unfortunate to sustain an injury so close to the start of pre-season testing, but riders need to train and there is always some risk when you train on the MX bike. The good news is that the injury is not quite as severe as we first thought and that the surgery was successful. For a normal person the recovery period after such an injury would be long, but racers aren’t normal people and I’m sure Jack is keen to get back on a bike as soon as possible. What is important now is that we monitor his recovery and that he rides again only when he is fit enough to do so, even if that means him missing the first of the MotoGP pre-season tests in Sepang.”

Brno Contract Secured Through 2020 - Association Will Pay €4.1 Million Per Race

The future of the Brno round of MotoGP has been secured for the foreseeable future. On Monday, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta signed a contract with the "Spolek pro GP ČR v Brno", an association set up to promote the Czech Grand Prix, to host the race at the Masarykring in Brno from 2016 until 2020.

MotoGP at Brno has been shrouded in doubt for the past few years. An ongoing dispute between the Masarykring circuit, or Automotodrom Brno, and regional authorities left the circuit in debt to Dorna after failing to pay the sanctioning fee demanded. The circuit owner Karel Abraham Sr. and Ivana Ulmanova, the circuit manager, were caught in a power struggle with the city council of Brno and Michal Hašek, the president of the South Moravia region. Dorna had threatened to take the race off the calendar unless all of the monies owed to the circuit were paid, and a long-term solution was found to prevent further problems.

A compromise has now been found to settle the dispute. The promotion of the event has been put in the hands of a special association, the "Spolek pro GP ČR v Brno", or Czech Grand Prix Association, which will organize the race and run it at the Brno circuit. Funding for the race will come from the South Moravia region (CZK 20 million, or about €740,000) and the Brno city council (CZK 10 million, or about €370,000), while the rest of the sanctioning fee (around €2.5 million in the first year) is to be raised from ticket sales. The Czech Grand Prix Association will pay the circuit CZK 28 million, or just over €1 million, for the use of the circuit. 

That deal, and the paying off of all previous debts to Dorna, convinced the Spanish firm organizing MotoGP to extend the contract for the immensely popular race. Brno is usually the MotoGP race with the biggest crowds, with fans coming from all over Europe to attend the race. It is also an extremely affordable race to attend for most fans, with food, beer and accommodation reasonably priced, for the most part. It is also a race with a very long history, the first Grand Prix being hosted on public roads which surround the circuit from 1965 onwards. Racing at the venue stopped in 1982, resuming again once the new, purpose-built Masarykring circuit was completed in 1987. Since then, it has been a staple on both the Grand Prix and World Superbike calendars.

With the deal completed, there is also hope that World Superbikes could make a return to the circuit. According to German-language website Speedweek, the circuit owners are interested in hosting an event again, especially given the fact that Karel Abraham Jr, son of circuit owner Karel Sr., will be racing in World Superbikes in 2016 for the Milwaukee BMW team. However, that event would also need to be financially viable, as there is also a sanctioning fee to pay to Dorna. That fee is much lower for WSBK though - around €200,000, rather than €4.1 million.

The announcement of the deal, and especially the stories on the Speedweek website and the Czech website Silničnímotorky.cz, also provide a fascinating insight into the cost of hosting a MotoGP round. Normally, the sanctioning fee charged by Dorna is confidential information, as part of a commercial agreement. However, because there is so much public money involved, the information has been provided in full. A rising scale of fees has been agreed, with the Czech GP Association paying €3.65 million in 2016, increasing to €4.6 million in 2020. This is broadly in line with what other European tracks are reported to pay, with most of them on deals worth between €4 million and €5 million a year. That seems like a lot compared to the €200,000 charged for World Superbikes, but is about a fifth of what Bernie Ecclestone charges for an F1 race, said to be around €25 million per race.

Below is a table showing the amount to be paid to Dorna for each year. The average, over a five year period, is €4.1 million.

Year Sanctioning Fee
2016 € 3,650,000
2017 € 3,860,000
2018 € 4,100,000
2019 € 4,350,000
2020 € 4,600,000

 

Pages