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

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

Ducati's aerodynamic spoiler, ruled legal by the FIM

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

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

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

New guidelines

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

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

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

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

Lessons for the future

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

VisitQatar Grand Prix – Doha (QAT), 10 March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Revised 2019 MotoE Calendar Announced: Six Races At Four European MotoGP Rounds

Dorna has announced a new schedule for the MotoE series, consisting of six races to be held at four European rounds of MotoGP. The 2019 MotoE series will now kick off in July at the Sachsenring in Germany, followed by a race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, and double headers at Misano and Valencia.

The new calendar was drawn up after a devastating fire destroyed the entire fleet of bikes and charging equipment for the MotoE series at Jerez earlier in the month. With so much equipment gone, and so much to replace, Dorna was forced to cancel the first two rounds of MotoE, due to be held at Jerez and Le Mans, and push back the start of the season to the Sachsenring.

The causes of the fire are still being examined. In previous press releases, Dorna stated that none of the bikes was being charged when they caught fire. The current focus is on a charging station which caught fire, for an as yet unknown reason, but that is not yet confirmed. Dorna have promised to issue a press release with more details on the causes of the fire once the investigation has been completed.

The new 2019 MotoE calendar is as follows:

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

The official press release announcing the MotoE calendar appears below:


New MotoE™ calendar announced

Six races to be held in 2019, beginning in Germany

The revised schedule for the inaugural season of the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup can now be confirmed, with all the partners involved in the Cup working hard to ensure this new parallel path of racing gets back on track.

The calendar will retain six races and MotoE™ will be back in business at a test in June at a circuit to be confirmed. The first race of the season will now take place at the HJC Helmets Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland in July, with the next two events set for the Red Bull Ring and Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli respectively, the latter of which will remain a double header. It won’t be the season finale, however, as the last round of the Cup will now take place at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, where there will be another two races to end the season in spectacular style.

As previously stated, Jerez will not host MotoE™ as part of the Gran Premio Red Bull de España and the revised calendar confirms that MotoE™ will not race at Le Mans.

The exact causes of the fire that destroyed the majority of the equipment for the Cup remain under investigation. The results, as well as any further updates, will be announced in due course.

For now, save the date for the season opener at the German Grand Prix on the 7th of July.

  • Race 1 - July 5th -7th - Sachsenring, Germany
  • Race 2 - August 9th -11th - Red Bull Ring - Spielberg, Austria
  • Races 3 & 4 - September 13th -15th - Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, San Marino and Riviera di Rimini
  • Races 5 & 6 - November 15th -17th - Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Comunitat Valenciana
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Aprilia's Romano Albesiano And Massimo Rivola Speak About Ducati's Rear Spoiler, And The Cost Of Aerodynamics

After yesterday's sitting of the MotoGP Court of Appeal, ruling on Ducati's rear swing arm-fitted spoiler, no official announcement was made, and next to no information leaked out from other sources. There is still no decision, and what was discussed behind closed doors, is staying behind closed doors for the moment.

On Saturday, however, Aprilia held its Aprilia All Stars event at the Mugello circuit, a day to celebrate the fabulous machines the Italian factory has produced, and the great champions who have ridden then. Along with riders past and present, there was also Massimo Rivola, Aprilia Racing CEO, and Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Manager.

That meant that they had their chance to give their side of the argument to the assembled media. In a press conference, Rivola and Albesiano explained why they had protested against Ducati's use of its spoiler during the opening race of the 2019 MotoGP season at Qatar, and made clear that it was not their intention for Andrea Dovizioso to be stripped of the win in that race.

What's good for the goose...

At the heart of their complaint was the fact that Aprilia had submitted a similar design to MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge, and had it rejected. They had sent the design to Aldridge on 19th February, but Aldridge had ruled that it violated the guidelines sent out after the Qatar test.

"We discussed about a device to be fitted in that area," Romano Albesiano explained. "Then we learned that you can say a wing can be useful for refreshing everything, no? But we were clearly told that a device fitted in that area should not have an aerodynamic purpose, and would have been taken off if it was dry. So we stopped thinking about anything in that area." So when Ducati turned up with a spoiler fitted to the bottom of the swing arm, they had been surprised, Albesiano said. "We were really surprised that a wing fitted in that area was allowed."

From Albesiano's perspective, it is clear that Ducati's spoiler creates downforce. "In the new edition of the guidelines which was issued the day after the IRTA test in Qatar, it was clearly said that a device fitted in that location should not be designed to create a downforce," he explained. "A downforce is one of the aerodynamic effects mentioned, and the purpose of the downforce is grip." The triple wing fitted to the GP19 clearly did that. "A wing creates downforce," Albesiano said.

Albesiano rejected the idea that the amount of downforce created was negligible. "It's not one pound [of downforce]. It's much more than one pound in the calculations we have done, it's much more. And when the range of riders is separated by hundredths of a second, even a few kilograms of downforce can be a help and make the difference."

Aprilia has the data

Albesiano gave some details from the spoiler Aprilia had designed and which Aldridge had rejected, saying that their device generated a significant amount of downforce. "We did the virtual wind tunnel testing, so called CFD, computational fluid dynamics. We simulated this device in straight line conditions, braking conditions. We have figures on the downforce, the drag, and the cooling effect that this device can give. I'm not sure I can give numbers today, but from the downforce point of view, it's not negligible, it's something that can make a difference in performance. "

What Aprilia wanted from the Court of Appeal was some clarification, Massimo Rivola explained, and not for the results to be scrapped. "First of all, I will say once more, we never asked for the race result to be different than it was," Rivola said. "Even at the time of the protest and the appeal, that was clear, at least to Aprilia."

But Aprilia did expect the rules to be clearer and applied more consistently, Rivola said. "I don't expect something to change in the very short term, but I expect that everybody understands that there is a need for some clarification." It was better to protest at the first race and have the rules cleared up, than to let it fester through the year, Rivola explained. "I think that the fact that we made this fuss at the first race, I think it's better to do it straight away. Now we can say, I told you so."

Cost control

The real objection to aerodynamic experimentation was of costs spiraling out of control, Rivola explained, something he was all too familiar with from his time in F1. "From my experience in Formula 1, if we decide to go to the aerodynamic field, it will cost a fortune to everybody. Probably for a very little gain, especially in the areas which are now free, like that one attached where it is. And even more, it is very difficult to police."

"So, you spend a lot of money, the federation cannot control the rules, so far the federation allowed and gave its OK looking at the part and saying, 'if you say it's for cooling the tire, then I think it's OK'." The level of knowledge inside the FIM, IRTA, and Dorna to police the rules needed to be raised, Rivola said. "I think we need to raise the level. When we say about professionalism? Yes, this for me is something which is not acceptable. And I think you can't disagree, to be honest."

While Ducati is waiting to hear whether it will be allowed to use its spoiler in Argentina, Romano Albesiano hinted that if the part is ruled legal, they could take a second look at the part which Danny Aldridge had previously rejected. "We stopped every kind of development in that area, and we are waiting for the result of the appeal," Albesiano said. "We still hope that the guidelines will be applied, and this device will be banned for the future. Otherwise, if it would be allowed, we could do something based on our experience."


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Court Of Appeal Ruling On Ducati Expected Monday Or Tuesday

The FIM MotoGP Court of Appeal sat today in Mies, near Geneve, Switzerland, to hear the appeal by four other factories against the ruling of Technical Director Danny Aldridge that Ducati's swing arm-mounted spoiler was legal. The court convened at 11am, and rose shortly before 6pm, but without issuing a decision. That will have to wait until early next week, with Monday or Tuesday the likely dates for an announcement.

The five manufacturers involved were all represented by the highest levels of management, according to GPOne.com. For Ducati, Ducati Corse director Gigi Dall'Igna was present, along with Technical Coordinator Fabiano Sterlacchini. Appealing the decision of the FIM Stewards were Massimo Rivola for Aprillia, Alberto Puig for Honda, Mike Leitner for KTM, and Davide Brivio for Suzuki.

Though no information has been released through official channels, the Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport managed to get a reaction from Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, which was then republished by the German language website Speedweek. Dall'Igna was reportedly furious that he had been forced to reveal information which he would have rather kept quiet about.

"In presenting our defense, we had to reveal some of our secrets about an area which our competitors had neglected," Dall'Igna told Gazzetta dello Sport. "If it was up to me, I would never have revealed what this element was for." The Ducati Corse boss also revealed that he was angry at Danilo Petrucci, for talking about the parts at the Qatar test. "I was furious with Petrucci, who had spoken about cooling the tires during the test."

The length of the court session is likely a sign of the depth of the hearing. Data was presented, and expert testimony heard. The judges will now take a couple of days to digest the information, and present their conclusions. Those conclusions will come early next week.

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Aruba.it Ducati WorldSBK Team Head To Aragon For Two-Day Private Test

The Aruba.it Ducati WorldSBK riders are heading to Aragon. There, Chaz Davies and Alvaro Bautista are to test the Ducati Panigale V4R as part of Ducati's test team, in preparation for the Aragon round of WorldSBK, due to be held there from 5th to 7th April, in just over two weeks time.

The test is crucial for Chaz Davies, in particular. The Welshman has struggled to adapt to the new Ducati V4, which requires a radically different riding style to the V-twin Panigale 1199R it replaces. Davies missed part of the winter testing schedule due to a back injury, which severely restricted his time in the saddle. 

His teammate, on the other hand, has won all six WorldSBK races (four full races and the two Superpole races) and leads the championship at the moment. Alvaro Bautista may arguably have had less of a step to make in terms of bike, coming as he did from the Desmosedici in MotoGP, but he did have to adapt to the steel brakes and much more pliant Pirelli tires used in WorldSBK. 

On paper, this is a track which should be very strong for Chaz Davies. The Welshman has won at least one of the two races held at each round at the Spanish track since 2015, doing the double in 2016 on the Ducati. He also won both races in 2013, riding the BMW S1000RR. If he can figure out how to get the best from the Panigale V4R at a track he is comfortable at, he should be able to get himself back into the championship.  

 

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MotoE Championship Rescheduled After Fire Destroys Bikes And Equipment At Jerez Test

Tragedy has struck the MotoE championship at Jerez. Shortly after midnight, a fire broke out in the specially constructed unit holding the MotoE machines, destroying all of the bikes and a large part of the equipment involved with the series. Fortunately, nobody was injured in the fire.

Alex De Angelis, racing in the series for the OCTO Pramac team, posted a picture of the fire on his Instagram feed, showing the extent of the blaze.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Stiamo tutti bene! tutto il resto non conta! Alle mie lacrime non aggiungerò parole 😔😓

A post shared by Alex De Angelis (@alexdea15) on

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, although Dorna issued a statement saying that none of the Energica MotoE bikes were being charged when the fire broke out. A new statement is expected as soon as the cause has been determined. 

The loss of both bikes and equipment has forced Dorna to postpone the start of the MotoE season. The series was supposed to kick off with races at Jerez and Le Mans, but it now looks like it will be postponed to the second half of the season. Dorna has announced that the series will still be contested in 2019.

The press releases issued on Thursday after the fire by Dorna and the FIM appear below.


The FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup will race in 2019; calendar to be revised

Further information released following fire at MotoE™ Test in Jerez

Early on the 14th March, a fire in the newly-built E-paddock at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto destroyed the majority of material for the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup. No one suffered any injury as a result and the damage was purely material. This is the key concern for all those involved as safety is the top priority on and off track.

As previously stated, an investigation is underway to determine the exact cause of the fire, the results of which will be published as soon as it has concluded.

The FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup is a competition born from innovation, powered by 100% renewable energy. This ambition to evolve and experiment with new technologies brings with it an associated risk. It can be confirmed, however, that no motorcycles were charging at the time of the incident in the box in which the fire started.

Dorna Sports and all of our partners in this new venture are committed to getting the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup back on track as soon as possible, with work already underway to begin rebuilding and replacing materials and motorcycles lost in the fire.

MotoE™ will race in 2019 and a revised calendar will be announced in due course. However, it can be confirmed that the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup will not race at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto as part of the Gran Premio Red Bull de España this season.


E-Paddock catches Fire in Jerez during Tests for the FIM ENEL Moto-ETM World Cup

The FIM was informed this morning that a serious fire broke out in the E-Paddock at the Circuito de Jerez Angel Nieto in the early hours of today causing considerable material damage and losses but fortunately no injuries.

Dorna has assured the FIM that it will work hard to overcome this major setback and ensure that the World Cup is up and running as soon as possible in spite of all the additional work that will now be required.

The FIM President expressed his great regret at the destruction of the motorcycles and equipment associated with the FIM ENEL Moto-ETM World Cup, which is due to start in Jerez in May : “It is a terrible blow but I am sure that all those working for this exciting new venture will find the strength and motivation to overcome this unfortunate occurrence and make the Championship a success. We look forward to putting this behind us and are confident in the future.”


Fire forces early conclusion to MotoE™ Test

A fire in the newly-built E-paddock has destroyed the majority of material for the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup

At around 00:15 early on the 14th of March during the second preseason MotoE™ test at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto, the E-Paddock for the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup caught fire, causing major damages and losses. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Fortunately there have been no injuries. An update will follow in the coming hours regarding the exact causes of the fire and any subsequent changes to the calendar.


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2019 And 2020 Test Dates Announced

With the announcement of a test at the Kymiring in Finland, the test schedule for 2019 and off-season tests for 2020 has been finalized.

In addition to the three official post-race tests, held as always after the Jerez, Barcelona, and Brno MotoGP rounds, there will be a two-day private test open to all MotoGP teams to be held at Misano. That test will be held after the British round of MotoGP at Silverstone.

At the end of the year, there will be the traditional two-day test after the Valencia race, before the final test of 2019 at Jerez, on 25th and 26th November. 

After the usual winter break in December and January, MotoGP returns as usual to Sepang, with a three-day shakedown test for the test riders, before the contracted MotoGP riders take to the track on 7th, 8th, and 9th of February 2020.

With Finland likely to be added to the calendar in 2020, there will also be a test at the track to gather data for Michelin and the factories on 19th and 20th of August. This test will only be for the MotoGP test riders.

The schedule for testing in 2019 and 2020 is as follows:

Circuit Date Test Type Participants
Jerez 6th May Post-Race MotoGP contracted riders
Barcelona 17th June Post-Race MotoGP contracted riders
Brno 5th August Post-Race MotoGP contracted riders
Kymring/Finland 19th/20th August New circuit test Factory test teams
Misano 29th/30th August Private test MotoGP contracted riders
Valencia 19th/20th November Off-season test 2020 MotoGP contracted riders
Jerez 25th/26th November Off-season test 2020 MotoGP contracted riders
Sepang 2nd/3rd/4th February 2020 Shakedown test Factory test teams
Sepang 7th/8th/9th February 2020 Off-season test 2020 MotoGP contracted riders

The press release announcing the official test dates appears below:


MotoGP™ class Official Test details confirmed

Dates and venues for upcoming tests confirmed ahead of the season opener

Friday, 08 March 2019

Just before track action gets underway in 2019 at Losail International Circuit, MotoGP™ test dates and details for the season and beyond have been decided.

The Official Test in August is now confirmed as taking place at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. Set up will take place on August 28th. The test will take place on the 29th and 30th August.

There is a possibility for a test to take place at the Kymiring in Finland for MotoGP™ class manufacturers’ test teams, with dates to be confirmed.

As in 2018 there will be a two-day test at the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto in 2019. This will take place on the 25th and 26th of November.

2020 activity will commence with a shakedown test on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of February at Sepang International Circuit, before the Official Test takes place on the 7th, 8th and 9th of the same month.


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Finland MotoGP Race Draws Closer - Test Teams To Try Track In August

The chance of there being 20 races on the MotoGP calendar in 2020 drew closer today, with the announcement that the track will be ready to host a MotoGP test later this year. On the 19th and 20th August, the factory test teams will spend two days trying out the surface and facilities at the Kymiring in Finland. 

The circuit has let Dorna know that the track will be ready to host a test on those dates. There, the factory test teams will test the surface and gather data for Michelin, to allow them to select the appropriate tires for the race to be held there. 

If the test is deemed a success, then the Kymiring will be added to the MotoGP calendar for 2020. That will bring the total number of races up to 20, the current maximum specified by the contract between the teams, IRTA, and Dorna. It is uncertain whether there will be a test with the full MotoGP grid ahead of any race at the circuit, as scheduling a test could be difficult. Instead, practice could be extended to give the teams and riders more time to find a setup during the race weekend. 

The press release announcing the test appears below:


Finland test dates confirmed

The KymiRing will host manufacturers’ test teams in August

Saturday, 09 March 2019

Information on Official MotoGP™ Tests was recently published and further details about an aforementioned test for MotoGP™ manufacturers’ test teams in Finland can now be confirmed.

The two-day test will take place on the 19th and 20th of August 2019. The Kymiring has announced that the track will be in a condition to complete Grand Prix testing.

This test with MotoGP™ manufacturers’ test teams will provide valuable data to all MotoGP™ class teams, as well as the technical suppliers, ahead of the KymiRing’s inclusion on a future MotoGP™ calendar. Every manufacturer will be present and represented by at least one rider.

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MotoGP Introduces Long Lap Penalty For Exceeding Track Limits

The Grand Prix Commission has approved the long lap penalty trialed by the MotoGP riders during the Qatar test last weekend. From the first race in Qatar, riders who exceed track limits, or are deemed to have unfairly gained time, will be punished with being forced to take a trip through a lane placed on the outside of a slow corner, handing them a penalty in the order of approximately three seconds. The penalty is to be used instead of forcing the rider to drop a position, although both penalties will remain available for the FIM Stewards Panel to impose as they see fit. 

The penalty of dropping a position had come into question after an incident with Jonas Folger during the Moto2 race at Misano in 2014. In that race, Folger was handed a punishment of being forced to drop a position, while sitting several seconds ahead of the rider behind him. Giving up the position cost him over five seconds, and dropped him into the middle of a group scrapping for position. It also took Folger so long to drop back to the group that he was handed an additional penalty in the form of a ride through.

Folger's penalty was a symptom of a larger problem. As grass runoff has been replaced by asphalt, it has become easier and more tempting for riders to run wide, or as is the case at tracks like Misano, Qatar, Barcelona, Le Mans cut a large part of some corners. Up until the incident with Folger, dropping a position was the automatic penalty handed out by Race Direction (and now, the FIM Stewards Panel). But dissatisfaction with that punishment led to time penalties being imposed. 

Though the time penalty system appeared fairer - times were taken through a series of additional timing loops at the track, and the time gained calculated on the average of a rider's laps through a particular section - the penalties were opaque to teams and fans who did not have access to the timing data. 

And so Race Direction looked for an alternative, and fairer, option. What they came up with was adding a lane on the outside of a slow corner at each track, through which riders would have to pass. Passing through the lane would automatically impose a time penalty of around three seconds, Race Direction calculated, though when asked at Qatar, the riders felt it would be a little longer. 

"They say that you lose three seconds," Valentino Rossi explained. I" think a little bit more, but it's not so bad. For me, it's more right compared to giving up one position, because sometimes if you give up one position, sometimes you lose half a second, but sometimes you lose five seconds. So this loop is always the same, so it's not so bad."

Speaking to Neil Morrison, Race Director Mike Webb explained the thinking behind the new penalty. At some tracks, there were a lot of riders exceeding track limits, especially in Moto3 and Moto2, Webb said. "When there’s a lot of [riders exceeding the track], it's difficult to manage from our point of view. If we give them the standard penalty, the change of position penalty, it's difficult to manage during the race. Plus it's quite unfair, depending on how close the rider behind you is. You can be giving up more time or less time by dropping a position. We’ve been looking to find a more fair and easy penalty for quite a while. This is our latest attempt.'

The penalty was inspired by the 'joker lane' in Rallycross, and similar penalties in Formula E. The aim is to have a consistent penalty for all riders, and at all tracks, making it independent of where other riders are on track. "The target is to give a penalty that is the same for everybody, so it doesn’t depend on their track position," Webb said. "And it’s going to end up being, in the amount of time lost, a bit more than dropping a position. We’re happy about that, because the track limits is a nightmare. It’s targeted at track limits infractions during the race, not practice."

In some cases, the existing penalty of dropping a position was barely a punishment at all. When large groups of Moto3 riders are battling for position, giving up one place means ceding a few meters, and hardly affects the outcome of the race at all, Webb explained. "One good thing is that, compared to a Moto3 race, when everyone’s in a group, losing one position is nothing. So losing a significant number of seconds is a greater deterrent and we’re happy about that."

Webb added that the new penalty was not limited to exceeding track limits, it could end up being applied in other situations as well. Any time a rider is seen to gain an advantage unfairly, the FIM Stewards could choose to impose this penalty. "A three-four second penalty is a reasonable penalty for something that happens on track," Webb said. The penalty will be communicated by the rider via board held out by Race Direction staff saying 'Long Lap', and by a message with 'Long Lap' being sent to the dashboard of the bike.

Where the penalty lane is placed will be important from a safety perspective. Race Direction and the FIM Stewards will examine each track for an appropriate area to place the 'Long Loop Lane'. That will always be in a slow corner, where the risks of an incident are minimal. "We want a slow speed," Webb said. "We wouldn’t want turn one. And where there’s an asphalt run off, or where there’s a safety area that you can do something off track. We’ve got our rider experts looking at the safe places at all the circuits we go to and we’ll do a similar thing wherever we go." 

It had taken some time to get to this situation. But with all parties happy, including the riders, the proposal was put to the Grand Prix Commission, who adopted it. At Qatar, it gets its first outing.

The press release announcing the change 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), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in an electronic meeting held on 1 March 2019 made the following decision:

Sporting and Disciplinary Regulations

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY

Long Lap Penalty

When the FIM MotoGPTM Stewards impose a Change of Position penalty on a rider, for Track Limits, or any other reason, there is a possibility of it being unfair, (depending on whether a rider is close to others or not) and it is also difficult to monitor when there are multiple infractions.

To make a more fair and verifiable penalty, the Grand Prix Commission, after consultation with the Safety Commission, have agreed to introduce a new “Long Lap Penalty”.

At every circuit a route will be defined and marked at a safe point around the track, (usually an asphalt runoff area outside of a turn), which is some seconds slower than the normal racing line. The penalised rider must ride through the defined area within 3 laps of being notified, thereby suffering a penalty equivalent to several seconds, (typically 2 or more seconds), on that lap. Procedures will be in place to enable the Stewards to use an equivalent time penalty in case the rider is unable to complete the Long Lap, (e.g. in case of a red flagged race).

This penalty will be added to the list of sanctions available to the FIM MotoGP Stewards, and whilst it is primarily intended for track limits violations, it may be used in any circumstances deemed appropriate by the Stewards. The drop position penalty will continue being available to the Stewards.

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Indonesia To Host Both MotoGP And WorldSBK From 2021

Indonesia is to get a round of MotoGP and WorldSBK from 2021. Confirmation of the news came faster than we expected yesterday, as Dorna issued two press releases on Saturday, announcing that both World Championship series it manages will race at the new circuit to be built at Mandalika in Lombok.

That MotoGP would race there is not a surprise, but that WorldSBK would also visit had not been much talked about. But this follows the same pattern as the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand, where WorldSBK was sent to the track first as a trial run, before MotoGP went to race there. The agreement announced by Dorna envisages both series going in the same year, starting in 2021.

The races are to be held at a circuit to be built inside a giant tourist resort on the south coast of the island of Lombok. The track will run on what are ostensibly the public roads inside the resort, but the roads will be laid out with a circuit in mind, making this nothing like traditional street circuits like Macau or the Isle of Man. Run off should not be an issue, and the rest of the circuit facilities are due to be built inside the resort. The Mandalika resort is a project of the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation, which is looking to expand tourism to Lombok, as tourism on Bali is starting to approach its natural limits.

Where the Indonesian races would fit in the calendar is hard to say. The obvious spot for the WorldSBK round would be between Phillip Island and Thailand, but this might end up reducing the crowds for those events. A similar argument could be made for MotoGP, where the easy answer would be to schedule Indonesia in the middle of the flyaways. That would not be popular with either Thailand or Sepang, which have a lot of fans who travel from Indonesia. What's more, a lot of Australian fans travel to Sepang as well, and they may be tempted to go to Indonesia instead.

The addition of Indonesia is likely to see the schedules of both series reconfigured. Indonesia could end up near the start of the MotoGP season, and near the end of the WorldSBK season, as that would make more sense both in terms of weather and in terms of climate. The MotoGP schedule will have to change in 2020 when the Kymiring, the new circuit being built in Finland, joins the calendar.

The two press releases issued by Dorna appear below:


DORNA Sports SL and ITDC announce their partnership to bring the world’s most popular motorcycle racing events to the island of Lombok in Indonesia

Saturday, 23 February 2019

DORNA Group, the exclusive commercial and TV rights holder for the world’s leading motorcycle racing Championships, and ITDC, Indonesia’s largest integrated tourism developer and operator, jointly announce the signing of two separate Promoters’ Contracts namely for the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix, more commonly referred to as the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship, as well as the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. The signing was conducted by Mr Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of DORNA and Mr Abdulbar M. Mansoer, CEO of ITDC at DORNA’s office in Madrid, Spain on the 28th January 2019, in front of Senior Management team by both parties and witnessed by Indonesian's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary for Spain, Drs. Hermono M.A.

The agreement confirms that Indonesia will welcome MotoGP™ and the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship in 2021 to the island of Lombok, more specifically within the Mandalika, which is a large-scale integrated tourism estate.

Dorna Group CEO, Carmelo Ezpeleta commented, “What a unique project this will be, having an urban, world class circuit in a country where MotoGP has such a huge following. Indonesia is a key market for us with a considerable percentage of motorsport fans living here and the MotoGP atmosphere will be even stronger once the circuit is complete. Also, by including Lombok to the WorldSBK calendar makes this offer more attractive for local fans having two World Class events in the area during the year.”

CEO of ITDC, Mr. Abdulbar M. Mansoer also adds, “We are very excited to have partnered up with DORNA and are delighted to be able to bring world-class motorsport events to Indonesia and the Mandalika in Lombok together.”

Both parties will be making additional statements in due course.


Indonesia to host WorldSBK in 2021

Lombok prepares to welcome the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship and MotoGP™

ITDC, Indonesia’s largest integrated tourism developer and operator, and Dorna Sports SL are delighted to announce that the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship and the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship will be racing in Indonesia in 2021.

The signing of the agreement was conducted by Mr Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of DORNA and Mr Abdulbar M. Mansoer, CEO of ITDC at DORNA’s headquarter in Madrid, Spain on the 28th January 2019, in front of Senior Management team of both parties and witnessed by Indonesian's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary for Spain, Drs. Hermono M.A.

The agreement confirms that Indonesia will welcome the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship and MotoGP™ in 2021 to the island of Lombok, more specifically within the Mandalika, which is a large-scale integrated Tourism Estate.

Delighted to welcome the most famous production-based motorcycle series and MotoGP™ in Indonesia, CEO of ITDC, Mr. Abdulbar M. Mansoer said: “We are very excited to have partnered up with DORNA and are delighted to be able to bring world-class motorsport events to Indonesia and the Mandalika in Lombok together.”

Dorna Sports SL CEO, Carmelo Ezpeleta commented: “What a unique project this will be, having an urban, world class circuit in a country where MotoGP™ has such a huge following. Indonesia is a key market for us with a considerable percentage of motorsport fans living here and the MotoGP™ atmosphere will be even stronger once the circuit is complete. Also, by including Lombok to the WorldSBK calendar makes this offer more attractive for local fans having two World Class events in the area during the year.”


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