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News Round Up: KTM Open To Marquez Approach, Ducati Looking At 2020 Already

The MotoGP riders are just two weeks into their shiny new contracts, but already, there is talk of what happens next. In Italy, there is a discussion of who gets the factory Ducati seat alongside Andrea Dovizioso in 2020. In Spain, they are looking ahead to 2021, and the option of KTM offering Marc Márquez a contract.

To start with Márquez first. The Repsol Honda rider is still in the midst of rehabilitation after his shoulder surgery in December. That is proceeding reasonably well, as Márquez' post on Instagram, showing him participating in the Fita973, a 13km cross country run organized by the Márquez brothers in Catalonia, demonstrates.

With the attention of the world turned to the Dakar rally, Spanish sports daily Marca, which also runs a radio program, called Marc Coma, former five-time Dakar winner and now head of KTM Spain, to talk about the rally currently going on in Peru. During the interview, Coma said that he wouldn't rule out an approach to Marc Márquez. "Marc was part of the KTM family in the past," Coma said. "KTM's MotoGP project is evolving in the right direction. When the bike is ready to win, why not have Márquez with us?"

Coma also admitted that this was not the first time KTM had approached Márquez. "KTM already made an attempt last time right. They made him an offer of a contract," Coma said. "Personally, I would love for Marc to sign with KTM."

Silly Season starts two years early

Despite the fact that the next round of contract negotiations is at least a year away – and the KTM RC16 currently looks to be more than a year away from being capable of winning a MotoGP race – the battle for Marc Márquez' signature is already hotting up. This should hardly come as a surprise: since entering the class, Márquez has won five out of six championships, several times on bikes that were clearly inferior to the competition. Only a truly difficult Honda RC213V, and a lack of experience in handling adverse results, kept him from making it six out of six.

MotoGP manufacturers hoping to win a championship understand this, and are angling to sign the Spaniard. In the previous round of contract negotiations, as Marc Coma confirms, KTM made an approach to Marc Márquez. And Ducati also offered Márquez a large amount of money last winter to ride for them. When the next round of negotiations start, at the end of this season, Ducati will once again be targeting Márquez for the 2021 season and beyond.

Whether Márquez will move remains an open question. First of all, Márquez will not switch without taking his entire crew with him. Factories are not keen on this, and Ducati doubly so, after their failed experiment with Valentino Rossi. When a complete crew arrives, it means there is no one with experience with the bike to help guide the way. That, some in Ducati feel, is one way the Rossi experiment failed.

It will also be interesting to see if Honda would be willing to let Márquez leave. So far, they have understood that their future is tied inextricably to that of the young Spaniard. But the arrival of Jorge Lorenzo may embolden them to feel they can still win titles without Márquez, if Lorenzo is up to speed quickly enough. The approaches from KTM and Ducati will certainly strengthen Márquez' hand in the bargaining. Lorenzo's results in his first year could play a role in determining how far Honda will go to hang on to Marc Márquez.

Ducati's dilemma

Before 2021, there is the question of the second seat in the Factory Ducati squad. Before the 2019 season has even started, and before the launch of the Ducati team in Switzerland on Friday night, there is already speculation over who will race alongside Andrea Dovizioso in 2020. Danilo Petrucci has been promoted from the Pramac Ducati team after Jorge Lorenzo left to go to Honda, and Ducati signed Pecco Bagnaia before the start of the 2018 Moto2 season to move up to the Pramac squad for 2019. Bagnaia joins Jack Miller, the Australian who made a solid debut on the Ducati GP17 as Petrucci's teammate at Pramac in 2018.

"The results of Petrucci, Jack, and Pecco will help us decide which rider will be in the factory team in 2020," Ducati boss Paolo Ciabatti told Motorsport.com's Oriol Puigdemont last week. Petrucci has worked his way from Superstock to make it all the way to a factory team in MotoGP, a living testament to hard work and determination. Jack Miller learned from a tough couple of years in MotoGP that talent is worthless if you're not prepared to back it up with work. And Bagnaia is widely regarded as one of the greatest talents to enter the class in several years. Ducati think so highly of Bagnaia that they signed him before he had even won a race in Moto2.

Logically, it would seem that Bagnaia is the future of Ducati, especially given that they have paired him with Cristian Gabarrini, arguably one of the very best crew chiefs in the paddock. But Ducati have also shown themselves to be ruthless when it comes to riders, as the first half of 2018 with Jorge Lorenzo demonstrated: what counts are results, and the rider who books the results will get the ride.


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Dani Pedrosa Breaks Collarbone, KTM Testing Derailed

Dani Pedrosa's career as test rider for KTM has gotten off to an unlucky start. The Spaniard has suffered another broken collarbone, and will require surgery and a long recovery process before he can start testing again.

Pedrosa's injury is a legacy of the many previous times he has broken his collarbone. The right collarbone is severely weakened after being broken twice before, and having surgery to fit plates. That has left him with a so-called sclerotic lesion on the collarbone, which means that bone growth in the collarbone is very slow. That, and a lack of blood flow to the bone, has left him with osteoporosis, and a weakened collarbone.

Just how weakened is clear from the fact that Pedrosa managed to break the bone without any particular physical impact. He had broken it as a result of 'a gesture of strength', he said in a press release, by which he presumably means a sudden and strong movement. 

That endemic weakness means Pedrosa faces a long recovery process. He is to undergo treatment with stem cells to help promote bone growth and strengthen the bone, to prevent a recurrence.

The length of the recovery period means that Pedrosa will miss KTM's program set out for the first part of the year, and will only resume work once his collarbone is fully healed. Pedrosa was due to take part in the shake down test at Sepang, to be held ahead of the official MotoGP test there at the start of February. Fortunately for Pedrosa, he has already been able to help KTM, having ridden the bike during a test in December.

The press release from Pedrosa's PR staff announcing his injury appears below:


Pedrosa will undergo surgery with his stem cells for double fracture of the right clavicle

Dani Pedrosa is forced to start 2019 with very different plans to those that he had foreseen with great enthusiasm. The Spanish rider will face in the coming months a broad and demanding process of physical recovery derived from the complex double stress fracture of the right collarbone that has recently been diagnosed. The three-time world champion and MotoGP Legend will follow a meticulous medical planning that includes tissue repair surgery, with graft contribution constituted by its own stem cells, with what is pursued the best and most effective consolidation of the injured bone.

To clarify his circumstances, Pedrosa notes that "unexpectedly I had a double stress fracture in the right collarbone, just in a gesture of strength. Over the years I have had several fractures in that area and the last time was in three parts, leaving it sclerotic. The middle part does not have enough blood flow, creating osteoporosis, so it requires an effective solution to regenerate the bone and achieve adequate recovery. After undergoing several tests and medical consultations, the clear recommendation is the total recovery and bone health. "

Unfortunately this entire clinical process takes time and will prevent Pedrosa from continuing with the test program initially planned for the beginning of the year as a test rider for the KTM team. Despite that, the first tests during the past month of December in the Circuit of Jerez have given Dani Pedrosa a good start point in the development of the KTM and is totally involved in the project. That is why Dani himself regrets "these circumstances and I thank KTM for their great support for my full recovery. We are very excited about the work we are doing and that is why I want to be physically in the best conditions for that exciting task. For me, the challenge do not stop”.

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Aprilia Appoint Massimo Rivola Racing CEO, Romano Albesiano Technical Director

After what has been a very difficult year for Aprilia's effort in MotoGP, the Noale factory is to shake up its racing department. Current Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano is to be moved sideways to concentrate on the technical side of the racing program, while Massimo Rivola, former Ferrari F1 team boss and head of Ferrari Driver Academy, will take over as CEO of Aprilia Racing.

The move is a response to the difficulties Aprilia has faced since making a full-time return to MotoGP. Romano Albesiano's background is in engineering, but being forced to manage both the engineering and the sporting side of Aprilia Racing did not prove easy. Albesiano clashed on occasion with Aprilia Gresini team boss Fausto Gresini over the running of the team, which further detracted from Albesiano's ability to focus on the technical development of the RS-GP.

Rivola's appointment allows for a clear split in responsibilities. Rivola will oversee the entire organization, covering all aspects of racing. Romano Albesiano has been appointed Technical Director, and will oversee the engineering and technical side of the MotoGP project. And Fausto Gresini will focus on managing the MotoGP team, along with the Gresini Moto2 and Moto3 teams.

The press release from Aprilia announcing Rivola's appointment appears below:


MASSIMO RIVOLA TO BE APRILIA RACING CEO

The Piaggio Group announces that from 7 January 2019 Massimo Rivola will assume the responsibilities as CEO of Aprilia Racing.

Forty-seven years old with a business degree, a motorcycle and Aprilia brand enthusiast, Massimo Rivola has the experience of twenty-one seasons and more than 300 GP races in F1. Twelve years in pit lane with Minardi, Toro Rosso and, with seven seasons, he was the longest running Sports Director in the history of Ferrari. He has worked with great champions including Alonso and Vettel. For the last three years he has been the head of the Ferrari Driver Academy, taking a young Leclerc from an F3 car to the wheel of the F1 car from Maranello.

The appointment of Rivola, who brings to MotoGP the vast experience accumulated in Formula 1, is another important step in the path of consolidating the Noale racing department and conformation of the Piaggio Group's commitment to growing the MotoGP project.

With this addition, Aprilia Racing continues to grow after the signing of top rider Andrea Iannone, who will ride alongside reconfirmed Aleix Espargaró, the arrival of Bradley Smith as tester and the addition of two new crew chiefs with proven experience, Antonio Jimenez and Fabrizio Cecchini.

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2019 WorldSBK Calendar Finalized: Laguna Seca Added To Make

The FIM today announced that the 2019 WorldSBK schedule has been finalized. The provisional round originally added for 21st July has been moved a week earlier, and is to be held at Laguna Seca. That had previously not been considered financially viable, but some reports are suggesting that Dorna may have given Laguna a further discount on hosting the round, because of the importance of the US market.

The arrival of Laguna Seca means that the planned South African round at Kyalami has been pushed back until at least 2020. But paddock rumor suggests that everything is being done to make this happen.

Below is the full 2019 WorldSBK schedule:

Date Country Circuit WorldSBK WorldSSP WorldSSP300
22-24 February AUS Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit X X  
15-17 March THA Chang International Circuit X X  
5-7 April ESP MotorLand Aragón X X X
12 -14 April NED TT Circuit Assen X X X
10-12 May ITA Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola X X X
7-9 June ESP Circuito de Jerez Ángel Nieto X X X
21-23 June ITA Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” X X X
5-7 July GBR Donington Park X X X
12-14 July USA WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca X    
6-8 September POR Autódromo Internacional do Algarve X X X
27-29 September FRA Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours X X X
11-13 October ARG Circuit San Juan Villicum X X  
24-26 October QAT * Losail International Circuit X X X

*(SC) Schedule change - Round held Thursday - Saturday

2019 Official Tests

  • 18-19 February, Australia, Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit (WorldSBK & WorldSSP)
  • 24-25 August, Portugal, Autódromo Internacional do Algarve (WorldSBK and WorldSSP)
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December News Update - Lorenzo On TV, KTM Hearts Ducati, Hayden In HoF, Surgery Updates

It may be December, and the world of motorcycle racing may be retreating into hibernation for a few weeks, but news does keep cropping up from time to time. So before we also take a break for the holiday season, here is a quick round up of the news stories you may have missed.

The week started off (or ended, depending on when you start counting) with a fascinating and honest appearance by Jorge Lorenzo on British MotoGP broadcaster BT Sport's season review show. The Spaniard spoke frankly about the reasons he left Yamaha, the struggles he faced at Ducati, and how he pondered retirement before turning it around.

Lorenzo made his reasons for leaving Yamaha clear: he had run out of challenges to chase. "There was a time when I was in Yamaha that I was not learning so much anymore, because I'd achieved my dream from when I was a little kid, which was winning the MotoGP World Championship. I won it three times with Yamaha, so I didn't have any more things to achieve, no, and I was feeling a lack of motivation."

No easy move

But the move to Ducati was not as easy as he expected. "The swap was more difficult than I expected!" Lorenzo said. "When I tried the bike I had a big shock. I needed to change completely my riding style. I needed to work a lot. But results were not easy to keep believing in yourself and with confidence but working on the mental side and my thinking, I kept going and going and working and working and finally in the middle of 2018 in Mugello we got the splendid victory."

That victory is often put down to the arrival of the specially shaped tank, which provided support for Lorenzo under braking. Lorenzo acknowledged that his had been the final part of the puzzle, the key to him sustaining his speed over the course of a race, but he also insisted that there was much more to it than just a shaped tank. The bike had changed radically, he said. "This was just the last part of it. Because we've been making a big and long work together with the engineers at Ducati, from the first moment that I arrived at the factory. I took a bike that was very nervous, with a very harsh first touch of the throttle, the bike didn’t turn… So little by little, the factory started making new chassis, that before they almost do one chassis per year, they started to do three or four chassis in one year. We start trying to improve the first touch, the behavior, to make the bike more smooth."

Lorenzo talks about much more in the BT Sport MotoGP review show, which also features interviews with Sam Lowes, Bradley Smith, Cal Crutchlow, and Rory Skinner. The show is up on Youtube for everyone without a BT Sport subscription based in the UK, or whose computers Youtube thinks are in the UK.

Orange + Red?

A few weeks after KTM's first podium in MotoGP – Pol Espargaro's third place at Valencia – and a couple of difficult tests at Valencia and Jerez, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer spoke to Austrian journalist Guenther Wiesinger of German-language website Speedweek. In an interview ranging over a variety of subjects, Pierer let slip that he might just have his eye on Ducati, something which may not just be idle speculation considering the constant stream of rumors that the VW Audi Group is considering selling Ducati.

Pierer told Speedweek that KTM was in good financial shape, coming off a good year for sales. But the uncertainty of Brexit and the tariffs placed on US motorcycles meant that the industry could be facing a period of consolidation. That left KTM looking at single-digit growth instead of double digits. That growth would come from sales of its new 790 models, and a new 500cc twin, Pierer expecting the 500cc-800cc premium bike segment to be the engine of growth.

Which left the KTM boss thinking about Ducati. "I have an emotional relationship with Ducati," Pierer told Speedweek. "Ducati is Ducati, it's as simple as that. Ducati is the only brand which would be a good fit with us. You can forget anything else." Given that KTM has set as its objective to win a MotoGP championship, buying Ducati might give the Austrian factory a shortcut to success.

Your very own MotoGP bike

Pierer did not make mention of the V4 track bike which KTM have hinted they would be making. But for those who are both impatient and have €250,000 to spare, they can get their hands on something arguably even better. KTM are selling two of their RC16 MotoGP machines to anyone with deep enough pockets. The bikes come with a set of Pol Espargaro's race leathers, a signed helmet, and a chance to attend a MotoGP race as the guest of KTM and Red Bull.

The current iteration of the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike is due to take to the track again on 18th December. Dani Pedrosa is set to get his first outing on the bike in his new role as KTM test rider at a two-day test at Jerez. The test will be held behind closed doors, and so we will have to wait until Sepang to hear what Pedrosa thinks of the bike.

Hayden in AMA Hall of Fame

Last week also saw a special moment for American motorcycle racing. Nicky Hayden was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame at the organization's annual induction ceremony in Columbus, Ohio. The AMA celebrated the life and achievements of the Kentucky Kid, who was killed in a cycling accident last year. Two Honda motorcycles were also unveiled, a Honda CBR1000RR in Repsol colors, and a customized Honda XR650L in street tracker trim. The bikes will be displayed at a range of AMA events, before being raffled off to raise funds for the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation.

Argentina extended

Another announcement which came earlier in the week was that the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit will continue to host the Argentinian round of MotoGP through the 2021 season. The contract had been due to expire after the race in 2019, but Dorna and the Santiago del Estero region in Argentina extended the contract for two years.

There had been some speculation that MotoGP could switch venues, and head to the San Juan Villicum circuit, 600km to the southwest of Termas, after the San Juan circuit was heaped with praise by the WorldSBK paddock after their first race at the track. That circuit is also just a few hundred kilometers away from the Chilean capital Santiago, making it more easily accessible for a larger crowd. But the extension with Termas de Rio Hondo means any such notion has been shelved for the next few years. Dorna is keen to expand further in South and Central America, but having a second race in Argentina would be a bit of a stretch.

Injury updates

The off season is also traditionally the time for riders to get surgery to fix injuries picked up during the year. Marc Márquez went under the knife for major surgery on his shoulder on 4th December, but he was not the only one. Aruba.it Ducati rider Chaz Davies also had surgery to fix his right collarbone, which he broke riding a mountain bike during the summer break. Yamaha test rider Jonas Folger also had surgery to fix a collarbone he broke in an MX accident a couple of weeks ago.

But it is Márquez' surgery which was the most invasive. The Spaniard underwent a procedure called Latarjet surgery to stop the recurring problem of his shoulder being dislocated. The operation involved taking a piece of bone from the coracoid process (a bone spur at the front of the shoulder blade) and attaching it the glenoid, the cavity in the scapula (shoulder blade) in which the head of the humerus (the upper arm bone) sits, with the aim of preventing the shoulder from dislocating.

The procedure was carried out by the paddock's favorite orthopedic surgeon Dr. Xavier Mir in Barcelona, together with specialists Victor and Teresa Marlet. Dr. Mir was surprised at how bad a shape Márquez' shoulder was in, which made the operation more complicated than expected. "It came out very easily," Dr. Mir told Jaime Martin of Spanish sports daily Marca. "He couldn't carry on like this. I can barely understand how he managed to win the championship like this."

Márquez is at home already, recovering, and receiving visitors – as a picture posted on social media of Mick Doohan visiting Márquez' home town of Cervera demonstrated. He is now just starting to mobilize the shoulder again. Márquez had a plate removed from his left hand at the same time, fitted after a training accident back in 2015.


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WorldSBK Schedule Clarified: Race 1 Saturday, 10 Lap Sprint Race Sunday To Set Grid For Race 2

Ever since the Superbike Commission - the rule-making body for WorldSBK - announced back in October that a third race would be added to the WorldSBK schedule, we have wondered exactly what this would mean for the class, both in terms of championship points and qualifying position for the second WorldSBK race, held on Sunday. On Tuesday, the FIM issued a press release containing the missing details for the coming season.

The new schedule impacts both qualifying and the races. The current two-stage Superpole has been abolished, replaced with a single Superpole session for the World Superbike and the World Supersport series. Those qualifying sessions will set the grid for the WorldSSP race on Sunday, and WorldSBK race 1 - the normal length race - on Saturday, and a new, 10-lap sprint race to be held on Sunday. 

The 10-lap sprint race - to be named the Tissot Superpole race - will set the first 9 positions of the grid for the second full-length race on Sunday afternoon. Positions 10 and onwards will be set using the qualifying positions from Saturday's Superpole session, presumably taking account of riders who qualified inside the top 9 but crashed out of the Superpole race on Sunday.

With the return of a single qualifying session, the times from free practice no longer count towards determining which Superpole session a rider has to go to. That means that free practice is once again free practice, and riders can use the full session to work on race setup, rather than trying to post a quick lap. As a result, the WorldSBK class loses one session of free practice from Friday. The press release does not state whether the current 40-minute sessions will be extended to compensate. 

The 10-lap Tissot Superpole race will also count towards the championship, but as it is a shorter race, fewer points will be awarded. The winner will score 12 points towards the championship, second place will get 9 points, and third place will get 7 points, with places four through nine being awarded 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 points respectively. The two full length races will continue to score according to the current Grand Prix points system. 

Winning the Superpole race will not count as a victory in rider statistics, however. At the end of the 2019 season, the WorldSBK will count 26 races from its 13 rounds. The Superpole race is a qualifying competition, meant to establish a grid and add some excitement for spectators on Sunday, rather than count as a fully-fledged WorldSBK race.

Though the press release does not contain a detailed schedule, each WorldSBK event will look something like this:

Friday
Two sessions of free practice for the WorldSBK, WorldSSP, and where applicable, WorldSSP300 classes.

Saturday
One session of free practice for WorldSBK, WorldSSP, and where applicable, WorldSSP300.
Qualifying for the WorldSSP300, WorldSSP, and WorldSBK classes.
WorldSBK Race 1.
A last chance qualifying race for the WorldSSP300 riders who didn't make it straight into the top 30. 6 riders will progress to Sunday's race.

Sunday
Warm up for all three classes.
WorldSBK Tissot Superpole race of 10 laps.
WorldSSP race.
WorldSBK Race 2.
WorldSSP300 race.

The press release announcing the changes appears below:


WorldSBK set to welcome new weekend format
Updates confirmed for 2019

As thoughts are turning to the 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship battle, during the FIM and SBK Commission, held on the 30 th November, in Madrid composed of Gregorio LAVILLA (WorldSBK Sporting Director, Chairman), Takanao TSUBOUCHI (MSMA) and Paul DUPARC (Deputizing for Rezsö BULCSU & secretary of the meeting), also present Charles HENNEKAM (FIM CTI Coordinator), Scott SMART (FIM WorldSBK Technical Director) and Daniel CARRERA (WorldSBK Executive Director), the CET Standard Time Schedule was confirmed, providing the final shape to the weekends format.

2019 will see World Superbike Championship change from four to three free practice sessions, meaning Friday will revert back to two WorldSBK Free Practices. WorldSSP on track action will remain the same, whilst WorldSSP300 will be split into two groups with two free practice sessions for each group. The final times from Friday’s sessions won’t affect qualifying positions. Saturday offers a big change in the format as the Tissot Superpole will now become one single Qualifying session for all classes. The final results of the WorldSBK Tissot Superpole will decide the grid for WorldSBK Race One and Sunday ́s Sprint Race, now branded as the Tissot Superpole Race. For the World Supersport 300 Championship, the riders not qualifying for their first race will also have a ‘Last Chance’ race to follow on from Qualifying. The top six finishers of this race will secure the final six places on Sunday’s grid.

Four races will be the treat on offer on Sunday, with two WorldSBK Races. The first SBK® race of the day will be an all new Sprint Race format of 10 laps (throughout duration of the season) where points will be added to the overall championship standings* and awarded in the Tissot Superpole Race as follows: 12/9/7/6/5/4/3/2/1. There will be no change for Race One and Two where point system remains unchanged and awarded to the first fifteen riders as followed: 25/20/16/13/11/10/9/8/7/6/5/4/3/2/1.

The second race on Sunday for WorldSBK will be the traditional format. The grid for this race will be determined from the first nine positions in the Tissot Superpole Race, and the grid from 10 th onwards will be the positions from Tissot Superpole. Offering three races with different formats will give the teams opportunities to work on different strategies for each race throughout the weekend and will offer even more exciting races for fans and riders to enjoy. On top of this, the weekend will finish with the WorldSSP300 race, which is always a sensational fight to the finish line.

Keep up with all the new regulations and updates, and see how the new 2019 season plays out, all with the WorldSBK VideoPass.

* Results not included in statistics and historical data.

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Grand Prix Commission Winter Rule Clean Up: More Wet Tires, And Clarifying Racing Rules

The off season is a good time for motorcycle racing organizations to do a spot of housekeeping. There is time to look back over the year, and figure out what was missing from the rules, and what was unclear, an issue made more pressing by the number of rule changes in recent years. And so that is what the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule-making body, did, at a meeting in Madrid on 30th November.

Though it took a 3-page press release to cover all the changes made during the meeting, most of them are fairly minor in their effect. The biggest change was not even in the press release, although that is because it is a consequence of the switch from Honda to Triumph engines in Moto2, and from the Honda ECU to the spec Magneti Marelli electronics kit. That switch means that the Moto2 technical regulations need to be updated to reflect the situation going forward from 2019. Nothing in those changes is new, however: the changes have long been debated and agreed between the FIM, IRTA, and Dorna, as well as the suppliers and chassis builders for the Moto2 class.

Perhaps the change with the most direct and potentially significant impact is the change to the MotoGP wet tire allocation. From 2019, the number of wet tires available to each rider has been increased to 6 front tires and 7 rear tires, the riders getting one extra front tire and one extra rear tire. Concerns had been raised at Valencia over the number of tires available, especially on a weekend which was mostly wet.

The wet tire allocation has been clarified for Moto2 and Moto3 as well. Although there are no limitations on the number of wet tires supplied to the teams, the rules have been modified to state explicitly that the official tire supplier - in this case, Dunlop, for Moto2 and Moto3 - will have at least 4 sets of wet tires for every rider on the grid.

One change which will annoy some of the MotoGP factories - notably Honda - is the requirement that engines be started in pit lane, outside the pit box, and not inside the garage. The change - sensible, given the risks of starting engines inside a partially closed environment - means the bikes will stationary and visible to rival factories and photographers for longer. Currently, Honda starts their bikes inside the garage, and then the riders ride out of the pit box, leaving little opportunity for rival engineers and photographers to get a close up look at the bikes, especially in terms of bike setup (geometry, suspension, etc) being used.

There were changes made to clear up some confusion of concession points, the points awarded to manufacturers for scoring podiums, and giving straggling factories more freedom to test and develop, allowing them to catch up. The first change is that when a manufacturer which has concessions scores enough podium points to lose those concessions, their freedom to test at any GP circuit is only lost for the following circuit. They do still lose the right to do unlimited testing, but they can still do so at any GP circuit, instead of just one of three officially nominated GP circuits. This prevents costly situations where factories have booked tracks to test at, but lose the right to test there after losing concessions.

The other change will be more significant in the longer term. Inspired by KTM's surprise podium at Valencia, when Pol Espargaro nabbed a superb third place in a race interrupted by the rain, a time limit has been placed on concession points. From 2019, concession points will expire after 2 seasons. This will prevent factories from losing concessions after a few lucky results, rather than as a result of sustained success, which is the purpose of giving concessions in the first place.

The remaining changes merely clear up previous anomalies. The lap record names have been made a little clearer, to distinguish between the fastest lap during a race, and the fastest lap set during any session on a Grand Prix weekend. 

The official criteria for finishing a race has also been changed. Previously, a rider had to be in contact with their bikes when they crossed the line to be be classified as a finisher. That has been changed, so that if both rider and bike cross the line separately, then the finishing time will be determined by the moment either rider or bike crosses the line, whichever of the two does so last. This would mean, for example, that Bo Bendsneyder would have been classified at Assen in 2017, when he crashed just before the finish line and then slid across the line apart from his KTM Moto3 machine.

There are also changes clarifying that substitute riders taken from, for example, the FIM CEV championship or the CIV can compete at Grand Prix if they take place inside of the 14-day window  after the national or regional series they compete in. Normally, all activity at a Grand Prix track is banned 14 days before the event. 

The press release from 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), Paul Duparc (FIM), Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) and Mike Trimby (IRTA), inthe presence of Carlos Ezpeleta (Dorna), Corrado Cecchinelli (Director of Technology),Mike Webb (Race Director) and Danny Aldridge (Technical Director), in a meeting held in Madrid on 30th. November 2018 made the following decisions:

Sporting Regulations – Effective Immediately

Race Classifications
Previously, in order to be qualified as a finisher, the rider had to be in contact with hismachine when crossing the finish line. There have been situations when, due to a crash,the rider and machine have crossed the line separately. In future the finish time willdetermined by the first part of the rider or his motorcycle, whichever crosses the finishline last.

Substitute Riders
On occasions a Moto3 or Moto2 team will substitute an injured with a rider contracted toparticipate in another Championship, for example FIM CEV. In future such riders will bepermitted to fulfil their entry obligations in the other series and track activity at suchevents will not count as rider test days for the GP class and may take place within 14days of a GP event at the same circuit.

Riders classified to Restart an interrupted Race
To establish clearer criteria on which riders may restart an interrupted race certainclarifications to the regulations were approved. It is confirmed that riders may obtainassistance from marshals to restart the machine or to move the machine on track,trackside or in the service road.

For the purposes of the regulations covering this matter “active” and “actively competing”are defined as the rider riding on track, or attempting to repair/restart the machine, or tore-join the track or return to pit lane. The FIM MotoGP Stewards will be the sole judge ofwhether a rider is actively competing and such judgements are not subject to appeal.

Passing Under a Yellow Flag
When a change of position penalty is imposed for passing under a yellow flag, or for anyother infringement, the information will be communicated via the dashboard display andon the finish line during a maximum of three laps. (Previously five laps).

Starting Machines
For Safety reasons it is not permitted to start the engine of a racing motorcycle inside thepit box at any time. Engines must be started in the pit lane.

Official Titles for Circuit Lap Record and Race Lap Record
New official titles were approved for the following circuit records:
“All Time Lap Record” – The fastest lap time in history including all Grand Prix sessions.
“Best Race Lap” – The fastest lap time in history made during a race,

Concession Points – MotoGP Class
When a Manufacturer gains sufficient concession points to lose concessions then theright for test riders to test at any GP circuit is cancelled. The regulation has been clarifiedto specify that this applies to testing in the following season when the manufacturer mustnominate three current GP circuits for testing.

In order that a manufacturer who only accrued concession points on a spasmodic basisdid not lose concessions after several years it has been decided that concession pointswill expire on the two-year anniversary of the date on which the points were gained.

Generators used on the Grid
Currently, regulations limit the use to a hand carried generator with a maximum output of2 kw. Current practice is for generators to be incorporated into a service cart withtoolboxes, spare wheels and other equipment.

Accordingly, the current regulation has been cancelled and the Technical Director willhenceforth be responsible for determining the acceptability of the generator/equipmentcart brought onto the grid.

Technical Regulations – Effective Immediately

Moto2 Class Technical Regulations
To recognise the change of engine supplier from Honda to Triumph the technicalregulations for this class have been modified. Full details will be available within the nextdays in the official regulations published on line by the FIM.

Tyre Allocations
After consultation with the Safety Commission and the official suppliers of tyres thefollowing changes have been made to tyre allocations:

MotoGP Class
The standard allocation of rain tyres will increase from 11 to 13 being six front and sevenrear tyres.

Moto3 and Moto2 Classes
In these classes the number of rain tyres is not limited. However, the official suppliermust now have available of a minimum of four sets of rain tyres per rider.

Disciplinary Regulations – Effective Immediately

Penalties not subject to appeal
The Disciplinary Code contains a list of penalties that are not subject to appeal, usuallythose penalties given during a race. However, the FIM Stewards may also impose a timepenalty in lieu of another penalty, typically when the standard penalty (e.g. changeposition, ride through, etc.) cannot be complied with because there is insufficient time leftin the race. The regulation covering such matters has now been changed so that whentime penalty is given in lieu of any non-appealable penalty, the time penalty alsobecomes non-appealable.

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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Shoulder Surgery A Success For Marc Marquez

Marc Marquez has had surgery on his left shoulder to fix the recurring problem of dislocating that shoulder. The surgery was carried out by Dr. Mir, together with Dr. Victor and Dr. Teresa Marlet, at the Hospital Universitari Dexeus in Barcelona on Tuesday. 

The surgery, which involved grafting a section of bone onto the head of the humerus, is meant to stop the shoulder from being dislocated so easily. This has been a problem which Marquez has had for a number of years now, the issue getting worse every time the shoulder popped out. The problem had become so bad that Marquez managed to dislocate his shoulder when he reached out to receive the congratulation of Scott Redding, after the Repsol Honda rider had wrapped up the title at Motegi. He partially dislocated the shoulder twice more at Valencia, after crashing. 

Marquez will require some time to recover from the surgery, six weeks of rehabilitation being needed before he can start to train properly. At the Jerez MotoGP test, Marquez had expressed his concern about the loss of training time, and the recovery period. "The plan is surgery next week, and then recovery all the winter," he told us last Thursday. "Because it's a long recovery, and I will not arrive at Malaysia maybe 100%, it will be tight. So all the winter will be concentrated on my shoulder, and then I will have all of February and March to work on my physical condition."

Below is the press release from Repsol Honda on Marquez' surgery:


Marquez undergoes successful surgery on left shoulder

After a fruitful end of season test in Jerez, reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez underwent surgery at the Hospital Universitari Dexeus today, 4 December. The complex operation was performed by Dr. Xavier Mir, Dr. Victor Marlet and Dr. Teresa Marlet, all members of ICATME (the Catalan Institute of Traumatology and Sports Medicine), in order to resolve the recurring dislocation in the Repsol Honda Team rider’s left shoulder, an issue which had persisted throughout the year.

Marquez will be discharged within the next 48 hours depending on his recovery. Next week he will begin a six-week rehabilitation program in his home town, Cervera, to recover from the operation. He will then commence his winter training in preparation for the Sepang Test in February.

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Ten Kate WorldSBK Team Declared Bankrupt

Ten Kate Racing BV, the private limited company housing the Ten Kate Racing team's racing activities, has been declared bankrupt by a Dutch court. The Ten Kate team had been forced to file for bankruptcy after last-minute attempts to put together a WorldSBK effort for 2019 had failed.

Ten Kate placed the blame for the bankruptcy squarely on Honda. The Dutch racing team had started out competing on Honda Supersport bikes, a natural choice given the team was a spin off of Ronald and Gerrit ten Kate's Honda motorcycle dealership in Nieuwleusen, in the east of The Netherlands.

Despite racing in both the World Supersport and World Superbike championships, and winning titles in both classes, the team never received much backing from Honda, and none at all from HRC in Japan for most of their existence, support coming from Honda Europe, the European distributor. Ten Kate were never HRC's choice, and so when HRC decided to make a return to the championship, they were always going to want to make their own choice about which structure to use.

The fact that Ten Kate only found on 30th October that HRC had chosen Althea and Moriwaki to partner with for the 2019 season, and HRC would not be providing any support for the Dutch team next year, mean that it was impossible to find other alternatives at such short notice. Contacts with other manufacturers faltered, and they could not find the necessary budget to continue in their present condition.

That situation has forced Ten Kate to consider legal steps to address the situation

In the press release - show below - Ten Kate expressed their desire to keep racing in the World Superbike championship, hopefully in 2019, but otherwise in 2020. That is contingent on a lot of other factors, of course.

The announcement was met with almost universal shock, and with enormous sadness. Jonathan Rea, who raced for the Ten Kate team between 2008 and 2014, had many kind words to say about the team, and the people involved. "It’s really sad," Rea said at the Jerez test. "I’m gutted for both Ronald and Gerrit. They’ve put their heart and soul into the Honda brand and now a curveball decision has put them in this decision. I’m gutted for Ronald and Gerrit and all the guys."

"I feel really bad for the team because when Honda undervalued WorldSBK and didn’t support the championship it was Ten Kate that stepped up," Rea said. "They sourced engine development with Cosworth and developed their electronics strategies and invested a lot in swingarm and chassis developments. That’s hard for the team to accept because when HRC decide to play suddenly Ten Kate get left aside. When I was there I was always keen to say it was a private team. I spent a lot of time there and the team has a soft spot in my heart." 

The structure of the company is such that the bankruptcy of Ten Kate Racing BV has no effect on either the Ten Kate Honda dealership, nor on the Ten Kate Racing Products company, which supplies specialist racing parts.

The press release from Ten Kate appears below:


Honda World Superbike team comes to an abrupt end

Nieuwleusen, November 27th 2018

Ten Kate Racing BV, the company that for 18 years has been responsible for Honda’s racing activities in the World Superbike and World Supersport series, during which time the team won 10 world championship titles, has today been declared bankrupt.

This sad situation is the direct result of very late notification given to Ten Kate Racing that Honda wished to end its association with the Dutch firm. Honda stated that it wished instead to continue its activities with two other companies who would assume responsibility for the company’s technical and logistics requirements in the World Superbike championship. This notification was given to the management of Ten Kate Racing on October 30th 2018 with no earlier indication or further explanation.

Until the last race of the 2018 World Superbike season, on October 27th in Qatar, the relationship between Honda and Ten Kate Racing was ‘business as usual’, with staffing, technical development, winter testing and all other aspects of the team operation for the following season discussed in detail and with most of the important decisions already made.

Indeed, the biggest question mark was the level of technical support from Honda and the Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) in Japan. A visit from HRC representatives in April to the Ten Kate Racing workshop in Nieuwleusen made it clear that, after many years, the team would no longer be solely responsible for the development of engines, chassis and electronics and that technical support would be forthcoming from the factory. Honda’s decision to stop the co-operation therefore came as a complete surprise and went totally against all the team’s expectations and beliefs.

During recent years, a clear understanding between Ten Kate Racing management and Honda established that any notification of a desire to terminate collaboration between the two parties would need to be made early (i.e. before the World Superbike championship’s summer break). This would allow Ten Kate Racing to explore opportunities for co-operation with other manufacturers and, in a worst case scenario, to manage human resources and potential redundancies within the team. During ongoing discussions Ten Kate Racing also made clear its willingness to become a logistics partner in the event that Honda wished to return to the World Superbike championship as a factory team.

Since receiving notification from Honda on October 30th, the management of Ten Kate Racing has, of course, had many conversations with other manufacturers and sponsors. However, as was feared by the team, World Superbike budgets and machinery were already fully allocated by the beginning of November.

While it was clear that there was genuine, high-level interest from a number of manufacturers, the timing was wrong. Consequently, it appears that Ten Kate Racing has been put in check-mate consciously by the world’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer. Pending legal proceedings relating to this situation, Ten Kate will make no further comments at this time. The team’s management will, however, continue to work on plans to race at world championship level, hopefully for (part of) the 2019 season, but otherwise for 2020.

Gerrit and Ronald ten Kate wish to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of every single member of the team over the last 18 years and to thank them for the huge successes and championship wins that those efforts have made possible.

The Ten Kate organisation also wishes to state that the end of its co-operation with Honda in World Superbikes will have no effect on the Honda dealership in Nieuwleusen or the Ten Kate Racing Products and Tuning department.

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CormacGP At The Valencia Test: Ringing In The New


New challenge for Jorge Lorenzo


Honda heat


A busy schedule for a man with a banged up shoulder


Hafizh Syahrin stays with Tech3, who switch to KTM


Full factory Petrux


Bit of a shock for Johann Zarco. The KTM isn't what he was expecting


Do the frog


Stepping into the future


Unbranded testing leathers and helmets are the best leathers and helmets


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