Suzuki, Honda, Ducati Punished For Riders Missing Autograph Sessions

At the beginning of the year, much was made of the addition of rules governing rider behavior to the Sporting Regulations section of the FIM MotoGP rulebook. That gave the newly instituted panel of FIM Stewards, who oversee all disciplinary measures, the power to punish riders and teams for a range of activities related to the promotion of the series. The biggest worry was caused by section 1.11.4.1, which threatened punishment of riders who made public pronouncements considered harmful to the championship.

The first punishments under these new rules have been handed out, and those punishments make it clear that Dorna's main target is to prevent riders from skipping their promotional obligations which the teams commit to as part of their contract to compete in the series. At Sepang, the factory Suzuki, Honda and Ducati teams were all issued fines for their riders either missing or being late to autograph signing sessions.

Repsol Honda came off lightest. Marc Marquez missed the autograph signing session on Friday due to illness, the Spaniard still suffering with gastroenteritis. Because Honda did not notify Dorna of this, they were given an official warning. Ducati were fined €250 for having both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone turn up to the session late. And Suzuki were fined €500 for Aleix Espargaro not attending at all.

Just how seriously this will affect the teams is open to question. With factory budgets in the tens of millions of euros, a fine of few hundred euros will barely register. It will, however, act as a signalling mechanism to other riders, especially younger riders, of the behavior expected of MotoGP stars. We shall have to wait and see how this plays out in the future.

The notification of sanction from Dorna is shown below:


FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel Notification of Sanction: Ducati Team, Repsol Honda Team, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR

Repsol Honda Team, who did not notify Dorna/IRTA of MotoGP Rider Marquez being unavailable to attend the compulsory Autograph Session due to illness. They received Official Warning.

Team SUZUKI ECSTAR because their rider Aleix Espargaro did not attend the compulsory Official Autograph Session.They were imposed a fine of 500 Euros.

Ducati Team because their riders Dovizioso and Iannone arrived at the compulsory Autograph Session at 11:45, 15 minutes after the beginning of the session. They were imposed a fine of 250 Euros.

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Comments

With all the bad/poor handling of so many important matters this sudden burst of policing the manufacturers is laughable.
I know, rules are rules, and the public that spent a lot of money and waited for a long time to see their stars deserve respect and therefore a late show or no show at all is disrespectful.... but c'mon! Marquez was sick Iannone is injured .... maybe given the circumstances a fair warning would have been enough?
This is a perfect illustration of how they are perfect at nitpicking on small trivial problems while failing to intervene in the bigger picture.....
I guess their next big stunt will be to preemptively give a big fine to Lorenzo because he did not wear the airbag.... and Bulega: his English is too poor!

My assumption is that there's revenue (to Dorna, local track operations, local promoters, etc.; one or more) tied to rider appearance as prescribed in the new rules.  Given the physical and psychological stress racers endure, forcing them to appear like this seems wrong and unhealthy.  I would leave it up to the individual teams (and their sponsors) to identify opportunities to make riders available. 

During the chaotic BSB Saturday in Assen at the beginning of October I was commenting on the miracle of almost all riders showing up for the improvised (and free!) pitlane walk in the paddock despite a changed time and location on extremely short notice, knowing that in MotoGP during expensive hour-long pitwalks on Thursdays almost none of the riders can be arsed to show up, only locals and mostly Moto3 and Moto2 competitors. On a Thursday. For a paid pitwalk.

Comparing the fan experience in MotoGP with BSB or even WSBK, MotoGP loses every time. I know that riders have a lot of commitments and a lot of stress, but maybe it is indeed time for the championship to rethink the time priorities for the riders. Personal attachment is what binds people to riders. Seeing how much they've been removed from the fans in the last few years, especially in the paddock, it's good to make sure that this contact can still happen somewhere. After all, without the fans none of these riders would earn a living.

Marc Marquez said the only thing he didn't like about MotoGP was the media aspect but he understood and accepted that as part of the job.