The first week of 2017 has come and gone, and we are a week closer to the MotoGP bikes hitting the track again at Sepang for the first test of the year. Though little of consequence is happening publicly in the midst of the winter break, there are the first few signs of activity. So below is a round up of the news from last week: most of the things that matter, all in one place.
Triumph to Moto2
Though this has been covered in depth elsewhere, it is worth pointing out the biggest news of recent weeks. Rumors which emerged at Silverstone, that Triumph would be taking over as official supplier of Moto2 engines, gained further momentum this week, with confirmation that the British manufacturer is to supply a new 765cc triple engine for use in Moto2. Testing is due to start in 2018, with the new engine to replace the current Honda CBR600RR unit from the start of the 2019 season.
The Hungaroring is the latest in a long list of tracks hoping to host a MotoGP race in the near future. The circuit is currently undergoing major upgrades to the pit complex, grandstand and track, with additional run off being created in some corners. Speaking to the Hungarian TV channel M1, the circuit CEO explained that the changes to the track were to be made in consultation with the FIM, to ensure that it complied with FIM standards for MotoGP. More on the upgrades to the Hungaroring on the Autosport website.
This is not the first time Hungary has aimed to host a MotoGP race. Work had started on the Balatonring in 2008, with the track due to host a round of MotoGP in 2009. The global financial crisis put an end to that plan, the Spanish construction firm building the track running into financial difficulty, and the Forint, the currency of Hungary, collapsing in value. The Motorland Aragon circuit initially took over as a temporary replacement for the Balatonring, but soon earned a permanent place on the MotoGP calendar. The Balatonring is now largely abandoned, as you can see from the Google Maps satellite image.
The Hungaroring previously hosted Grand Prix in 1990 and 1992. Mick Doohan won on a Honda in 1990, and Eddie Lawson won on a Cagiva in 1992.
Whether the Hungaroring will actually get a spot on the calendar remains to be seen. The tracks currently on the calendar nearly all have multi-year contracts to stage MotoGP rounds. In addition, there are at least five or six other circuits lining up to take a spot on the calendar. Dorna has reached agreement to stage a MotoGP round in Finland from 2018 at the Kymiring, some 110 kilometers from the Finnish capital Helsinki.
A new track is being built at Tailem Bend in Australia, which also hopes to secure MotoGP. Work continues on an Indonesian round of MotoGP, though it is still uncertain whether this will take place at an upgraded Sentul or a new circuit to be built at Palembang in South Sumatra. The Chang International Circuit in Thailand is also angling for a MotoGP round, and is hosting WorldSBK while it waits. Kazakhstan has a circuit ready and hopes to play home to MotoGP. And expansion in South America also remains a possibility, with a new circuit in Chile, talk of another track in Argentina, and continual rumors of a return to Brazil. Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta has said that he believes that MotoGP could hold a maximum of 20 rounds each year, but there is a lot of opposition from riders to this, who do not want the series expanded beyond 18 races.
New partnerships, new surfaces
There was good news for the Circuit of Wales. The new circuit to be built near Ebbw Vale in South Wales announced a partnership with the leisure firm EXTREME. The British firm is planning to build an adventure sports park beside the circuit, housing a range of outdoor activities. The park would mountain park trails, a zip wire trail, paintball, a water park, and much more. There would also be restaurants and a hotel.
The circuit is still trying to reach a deal with the Welsh Government over underwriting the project. However, building an adventure park, which would attract visitors all year round, would be a significant contributor to the number of jobs in and around the Circuit of Wales.
Over in France, the Le Mans circuit was resurfaced before the winter break. There had been a lot of complaints about the old surface at the circuit, the track having lost most of its grip, and having a lot of ripples in several places, caused by the cars which also use the circuit. The new surface was laid in a three-week period, the process being completed last December. The new surface now has just three joints in the asphalt, whereas previously they littered the track.
Galbusera speaks to the Gazzetta
While everyone has been patiently waiting for the first interview with Jorge Lorenzo for the Spaniard to reveal all about his time at Yamaha, Ducati's new signing has been very quiet in the media. A sign, perhaps, that Lorenzo's departure from Yamaha was much more amicable than some had hoped.
If Lorenzo has not been interviewed – other than a few casual remarks to British publication Motorcycle News – others have spoken about him. Valentino Rossi's crew chief Silvano Galbusera was interviewed by the Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, the highlights of which were published by the Corse di Moto website. Galbusera covered several subjects, stating that he expected the atmosphere within Yamaha to be a little more relaxed now that Maverick Viñales had taken the place of Jorge Lorenzo. Galbusera told the Gazzetta that was not sure how strong the Ducati would be with Lorenzo aboard. "There will be races he will do very well and can win. But fighting for the title will be difficult." Galbusera believes that Marc Márquez will once again by the most dangerous of Valentino Rossi's rivals for the title.
Ten Kate take delivery of new blades
Finally, news of what racing teams really do over the winter. At the start of the new year, the Ten Kate team took delivery of their first shipment of 2017 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblades. The new bike is more powerful than the machine it replaces, as well as being lighter, and uses revised engine internals aimed at making it more competitive. Ten Kate are now hard at work turning the road bikes that rolled into their workshops into WorldSBK spec machines ready for Nicky Hayden and Stefan Bradl for the 2017 season.
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