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Circuit of Wales Under Threat as Welsh Government Refuses to Underwrite Project

The Circuit of Wales was dealt a significant setback on Wednesday, after the Welsh Economy Minister refused to offer a 100% guarantee for the £357 million development project. Without the guarantee, the future of the project is now uncertain, with doubts over the willingness of Aviva, a British insurance company, to continue with backing for the project. 

After a long period of preparation, which included a Public Enquiry on the transfer of public lands, work was set to start on the circuit, set just outside Ebbw Vale in South Wales. Work had already started to get the site of the circuit ready to start construction. 

The final piece of the puzzle had been secured several weeks ago, in the form of financial backing from Aviva. However, the Heads of The Valley Development Company had asked the Welsh Government to underwrite 100% of the investment in the project, with reports in the regional newspaper South Wales Argus suggesting that such demands had come from Aviva. 

Welsh Economy Minister Edwina Hart wrote to the Welsh Assembly to inform its members that the Welsh Government could not underwrite the entire project cost. She wrote that there was "a significant question around the viability of the project" and that backing it was therefore an "unacceptable risk". The offer of an 80% guarantee had not been accepted.

Speaking to BBC Wales, the Economy Minister said she had been advised the project was too risky to underwrite fully. With Aviva refusing to underwrite 20% of the project, Hart told the BBC "there is no private money in this" and that therefore the risk would have fallen entirely on the taxpayer. This was not a good investment for the public purse, Hart said, telling the BBC "The advice to me was that it was not value for money, it was far too much of a risk for government."

Without the backing of the government, it is unclear how the project will proceed. The HODVC are still confident of being able to complete the project, but must now embark on a mission to find alternative ways of securing the project. In a statement, shown below, HODVC boss Michael Carrick said, "We will continue negotiations with The Welsh Government, the local authorities and Aviva Investors to advance the development on revised terms that will be acceptable to all parties."

The statement from the Heads of The Valleys Development Company is below:

Michael Carrick, CEO, Heads of The Valleys Development Company commented on Edwina Hart's letter (dated 6th April) to Rt Hon Carwyn Jones regarding The Circuit of Wales project:

"We fully recognise and appreciate the support and commitment of The Welsh Government and the private sector partners over many years to get a project as complex as The Circuit of Wales to a point where construction is imminent.

"The Circuit of Wales is a significant mixed-industry development with the potential to deliver widespread regeneration benefits to the South Wales region. Many observers near to the site will have noted that the pre-enablement works and ecology activity has already commenced and we have a range of contractors engaged on creating sustainable employment opportunities in this challenged area.

"We respect and understand the Ministers decision on the support for a 100% guarantee for our private funding. While this was our clear preference and reflective of the negotiations we have held over the past six months, we accept that the project will need to progress on revised terms.

"We will continue negotiations with The Welsh Government, the local authorities and Aviva Investors to advance the development on revised terms that will be acceptable to all parties."

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MotoGP Argentina Race Shortened To 20 Laps, Compulsory Pit Stops

Race Direction have once again revised the procedure for the MotoGP race in Argentina. The race has now been shortened to 20 laps, with a compulsory pit stop between laps 9 and 11. The official statement is below:

New Statement from Race Direction, Argentina

The race distance is changed to 20 laps.


Riders must change bikes at the end of their 9th. 10th. or 11th. Lap.

If rain starts and Race Direction consider the situation to be dangerous the red flag will be shown and all riders should enter pit lane.

Teams will be given 15 minutes between the display of the red flag and opening of pit lane to make adjustments to the machines.

The second part of the race will be for 10 laps. Grid positions will be based on the result of the first part and will be declared a wet race.


Riders may enter the pits to change machines only from the end of their 9th. lap.

If the wet race is red flagged for other reasons when more than 13 laps have been completed then the result will stand and there will be no restart.

Race Direction


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Race Direction Clarifies Procedure For Argentina MotoGP Race

Race Direction issued the following statement on the procedure for the MotoGP race today:

Statement from Race Direction,
Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina.

The warm up starting at 10:40 will now be for 30 minutes, finishing at 11:10. This will apply whether the track is dry or wet.

If the track is dry for the warm up riders should use the replacement rear tyre (Option Tyre).

If the track is wet for the warm up then the plan to provide extra practice sessions with the Option tyre is cancelled and the race will be held using the tyres from the original allocation.


If the race starts in dry conditions if the warm up has been dry then riders must start with the Option tyre and the race will be for the full 25 laps. The normal flag to flag conditions will apply if the track becomes wet.

If the race starts in dry conditions when the warm up has been wet then riders may use either of the rear slick tyres (Medium & Hard of their allocation for Argentina). However, the race will be “flag to flag” for 20 laps with a compulsory stop to change machines at the end of lap 9, 10 or 11.

If the race starts in the wet and the track dries then Race Direction will decide if it is unsafe for the riders to continue in which case the race will be red flagged. The new “dry” race will then be restarted for ten laps with a 15 minute start procedure. Should the track become wet during this race the riders may change machines as normal.

If the race starts in wet conditions and remains wet then the race will be for the normal 25 laps.

Under no conditions will the use of intermediate tyres be permitted.

Race Direction


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Argentina MotoGP Schedule: Early FP Canceled, Plans in Place to Handle Conditions

The problems with Michelin tires yesterday have combined with wet weather at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit to force Race Direction to put a string of contingency plans in place to deal with variable conditions. Here is the plan as it stands:

  • The extra session of warm up for MotoGP has been canceled. The wet track meant the teams could not test the new rear tire on offer from Michelin. That, in turn, would have meant they would have needed a sixth session of free practice if the track dried out again to test the new tires. There were concerns that the teams did not have enough race fuel to cover six sessions of free practice, and the extra morning session on a wet track would have been fairly meaningless anyway. At any other track, if it rained on Sunday, the teams would only have warm up to find a wet set up.
  • If MotoGP warm up is dry, the session will be extended to allow the teams to find a set up.
  • If MotoGP warm up is wet, then it will be extended for 10 minutes to give the riders a chance to get a feel for the wet Michelins, which they have only tested at Brno and Phillip Island.
  • If the track dries ahead of the start of the MotoGP race, an extra session of free practice will be added, to allow the teams to find a set up with the stiffer construction medium tire Michelin brought as a contingency. The timing of that session is to be decided.
  • If the track starts wet, but then dries out, then the current plan is that the race will be red-flagged. However, there were also reports that the medium tire which Michelin withdrew yesterday could be used. Tire temperatures on a drying track will not be an issue, but the riders will not be allowed to do more than ten laps on the tire in the dry, meaning another compulsory pit stop might be possible.

​The situation is changing fast, however. With so many circumstances which cannot be predicted, Race Direction is having to adapt to events as they occur. 

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Michelin Withdraws Both Rear Compounds in Argentina after Delamination In FP4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Monza Round of World Superbikes Canceled, Estoril as Replacement?

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Calendar Update

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

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

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

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


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Spec Winglets to be Mandatory in MotoGP from 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michele Pirro will replace Danilo Petrucci

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

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Grand Prix Commission Bans Winglets in Moto2 & Moto3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Vito Ipollito (President FIM), Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on 19th. March 2016 in Losail, made the following decisions:

Technical Regulations

Moto2 Class Quickshifter – Effective 01 May 2016

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

Aerodynamic Wings in Moto3 and Moto2 Classes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The official statement is shown below. 

Statement Of the Technical Director:
Moto3 Class Maximum Rev Limits

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

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

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

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

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

Further information will be provided after the Qatar meeting.

Danny Aldridge

MotoGP Technical Director

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