Though the world of motorcycle racing slowed to a crawl over the holiday season, that does not mean that nothing happened whatsoever. Racing news trickled out from around the globe, as riders, teams, and factories made decisions, and racing collided with the real world. So here's a round up of some of the news stories you may have missed while we were away over the past couple of weeks.
Rossi's Ranch wins in the courts
The year started off with good news for Valentino Rossi. Ever since it was built, some local residents have complained about the noise and nuisance caused by Rossi's dirt track ranch, situated just east of his home village of Tavullia. A group of locals lodged formal complaints against the ranch with the Tavullia council, alleging several violations of local rules, such as missing documents including an environmental impact assessment, as well as complaints about excess noise and noise outside of normal operating hours.
Those complaints were dealt with by a regional court earlier this week, the Regional Administrative Tribunal (TAR) of the Marche region, where Tavullia is located. The court rejected the complaints, dismissing a part as having no grounds to proceed, a part as being inadmissible, and rejecting the remainder.
The court laid out their reasoning in a 19-page document. The environmental impact had been approved by the Province, according to the court. Approval had been given because the major economic and PR benefits to the town of having Rossi's ranch at the location. And complaints about noise were rejected because bikes were on track and producing noise during normal daylight hours, not times which violated the normal expectations of rest and relaxation. Moreover, the court ruled, the locals would have had no grounds to complain if the facility had been used for non-noise-based sports, such as mountain biking or athletics.
The ruling does not mark the end of the case, however. The complainants can still appeal to a higher court, the Council of State, Italy's highest body overseeing administrative law.
For fuller details (in Italian), see the original report from the regional Il Resto Di Carlino website, or a more concise and clear summary on the GPOne.com website.
Why do young riders retire?
Surprising news came from Spain and Italy, with two young riders announcing their retirements. Mugello Moto3 podium man Juanfran Guevara announced his retirement in an official statement just after Christmas, while Misano Superstock 1000 winner Marc Faccani announced on Instagram that he would be hanging up his helmet as well.
The retirement of the two riders is indicative of the difficulty racers face nowadays. The 23-year-old Faccani announced he would be switching careers and starting his own design studio, though his target audience will still be racing paddocks and racing companies. But the reasons given by the 22-year-old Juanfran Guevara are more illustrative of the trials and tribulations of a modern racer.
Guevara explained his motivations in a revealing interview with the Spanish magazine Motociclismo. As with all human decisions, his motivations were complex: he wanted to spend more time with friends and family, he wanted to focus more on his business studies, which he had been pursuing alongside his racing, and he was finding it hard to continue financially, despite the backing of his sponsors.
Above all, though, Guevara had taken the decision once he realized the physical impact of the stress he was under. Some three weeks previously, he told Motociclismo, he had been walking home from university when his vision became blurred, and he had been forced to stop and rest. His doctor had diagnosed him with symptoms of severe stress, and that had set him thinking. 22 years of age was too young to be suffering from stress, Guevara decided.
"For a rider who only has to ride, this life is the best one imaginable," Guevara told Motociclismo. "But for a rider like myself, who when he gets home has to look for sponsors, study for a degree, finish up projects and train, all these thousands of things never stop." The decision to stop was a luxury, he realized. "The problem we have, especially in Moto3, is that of the 33 riders, probably 29 of them don't know how to do anything other than race a motorcycle," Guevara said.
Guevara had stopped to take stock of his life, and whether the sacrifices were worth it. "I thought, my God! After all I have lost, my family and everything, is it worth it just to be here?" he asked himself. For Guevara, the answer was no.
Will more riders follow suit? Just to get into the bottom step of a world championship – Moto3, Supersport, or Supersport 300 – takes enormous dedication and commitment, and normally, those lacking the motivation have already fallen by the wayside. But the downside of starting racing at the incredibly early age that most modern racers do is that they reach a crucial stage of their career just as they are changing from boys and girls to men and women, leaving adolescence for adulthood. Priorities change, and some youngsters realize there is more to life than motorcycle racing.
In this, perhaps Casey Stoner has acted as an example, given permission to young riders to make a life change and give up racing if they feel it is costing them too much. That may in very limited terms be bad for racing, but it is vastly better for them as humans.
If you read Spanish, or can use Google / Bing translate, it is well worth reading the full interview with Juanfran Guevara. A fascinating insight into the life of a racer, and the choices they must make.
Stoner and Bradl to join pre-Sepang private test
Though the start of the MotoGP season is still some way away, things are warming up for testing. The official IRTA test takes place from 28th-30th January, but there will be a three-day private test beforehand, from 24th to the 26th.
The line up for that pre-test is actually pretty impressive of its own accord. For Ducati, Casey Stoner and Michele Pirro will be taking to the track, with Stoner expected to give the Desmosedici GP18 a proper workout before factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo put it through its paces. There will, according to Ducati boss Paolo Ciabatti in Italian paper Corriere dello Sport, be only one version of the GP18 chassis, which will be an evolution of the GP17 used last season.
For Honda, Stefan Bradl joins Japanese test riders Takumi Takahashi and Hiroshi Aoyama. Aoyama and Takahashi have already spent time on track over the winter, working on the 2018 version of the RC213V at Jerez in December. Bradl, still at a loose end for 2018 after a dismal year in WorldSBK, has been brought in to add more recent experience and pace to the Japanese line up.
KTM will of course have Mika Kallio at the pre-test, and the Finnish test rider will also be staying on for the official IRTA test a few days later. Aprilia have Italian rider Matteo Baiocco, while Suzuki will be fielding Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli at the test. Guintoli proved his worth in the middle of last year, when he substituted for the injured Alex Rins and provided valuable development input which helped move the project along.
Yamaha will be out in full force at the test, fielding a grand total of five riders at Sepang. Testing and All-Japan SBK riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kohta Nozane will be present at both the private test and the IRTA test two days later, while test riders Keisuke Madea, Takuya Fujita, and Masahiko Itawa will be at the private test. This means that Yamaha will have five riders at the private test, then four at the IRTA test, where Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales will join the fray.
Yamaha's large test contingent is a sign of just how seriously the Iwata factory is taking the disappointment of their 2017 season. Yet the fact remains that they have so far refused to take on a European test rider, or at least a rider with recent MotoGP experience. Yamaha racing boss Lin Jarvis explained the factory's position at Valencia last year. "Yamaha’s position is that we primarily have our test riders and team in Japan, as does Honda in fact. If you start a new testing team in Europe, it requires considerable extra expense," he said. If 2018 is as tough for Yamaha as 2017 was, it will be interesting to see if they hold to that position.
If you are in search of some good reading over the weekend, here are some links worth exploring:
- Bikesport News' Robin Miller talks about the ins and outs of BT Sport's likely contract renewal to broadcast MotoGP in the UK, and how platform sharing with Sky may help the sport reach a bigger audience.
- Paddock Pass Podcaster and outstanding journalist Neil Morrison has a fascinating interview with Hervé Poncharal on Crash.net, talking not about one of his current riders, but about a former rider of his, Andrea Dovizioso. The interview is revealing of Poncharal's relationship with the riders, but also of Tech 3's relationship with Yamaha.
- Neil Morrison also has a worthy interview with Moto3 champion Joan Mir, in which the Spaniard goes into his racing background, and how he passed on the opportunity to get into skateboarding.
- And finally, read Team Aspar's announcement that they will be renaming their team after Ángel Nieto, the legendary Spanish rider who died last year.
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