Latest MotoGP News

Reviewing the Movistar Yamaha Launch: Despite a Strong Hand, Trouble Brewing Ahead

If anyone thought that the start of the 2016 season would mean an end to the bitter divisions of 2015, they will be bitterly disappointed. The launch of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team, at title sponsor Movistar's regional headquarters in Barcelona, brought the whole affair back to the surface. It was the first time since Valencia that the racing press had the chance to put questions to Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, and both the questions asked and answers given helped reignite the flames of controversy. Rossi restated his belief that Marc Márquez conspired against him to hand the title to Lorenzo. Lorenzo expressed his frustration at being drawn into something he had no part of. Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis called for respect from all sides, and expressed Yamaha's concerns about the way situations such as Sepang are handled. Above all, the Italian press showed a dogged pursuit of the post-Sepang fallout, bombarding Rossi with questions about the affair, and probing Lorenzo about his thoughts. The soap opera is set to run and run.

Yamaha hadn't invited us to Barcelona to rake over the embers of 2015, of course, though they clearly understood it would inevitably come up. We were there to see the 2016 Movistar Yamaha livery unveiled, and hear Yamaha's hopes and expectations for the coming season. In the afternoon, Yamaha presented their entire racing program, including World Superbike, World Endurance, MXGP and Enduro teams. It was an impressive reminder of just broad Yamaha's racing activity is. As one senior Yamaha staffer put it, "we like to race every bike we make." They have been successful too: throughout the MotoGP presentation, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis and MotoGP project leader emphasized that 2015 was Yamaha's fifth triple crown (rider, team and manufacturer championships in the same year) in MotoGP. Romain Febvre won the MXGP crown in 2015, Mikael Persson became Enduro Junior World Champion, and the GMT94 team were runners up in the World Endurance championship. Yamaha move to World Superbikes with Crescent Racing, with 2014 WSBK champion Sylvain Guintoli aboard the brand new YZF-R1M, together with Alex Lowes.

It was the MotoGP team which got most of the attention, however. Preseason launches are always awkward. Without the urgency which the promise of bikes on tracks bring, the atmosphere is somehow artificial. The first extended appearance of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi together for the first time since Valencia made the atmosphere in Barcelona even more strained than usual. To their credit, Yamaha did nothing to prevent the discussion of the 2015 season finale, but the tension was obvious. When the two riders were called to the stage to speak, Valentino Rossi entered from the right of the room, Jorge Lorenzo from the left. Whether this was an alliterative choice or not, it seemed symbolic of the difficulties involved in keeping two of the best riders in the world in the same team. Especially when those two have just gone through such an acrimonious season the year before.

Jack Miller Breaks Leg In Training Incident - Doubtful For Sepang

Jack Miller has broken his right leg in a motocross training incident. The Australian was riding at the Bellpuig motocross track in Spain on Sunday, when he landed heavily, fracturing both the fibula and tibia down near the ankle joint. In a post on Instagram, Miller explained that he had been forced to shut off the throttle when another rider lost control on the up ramp of a triple jump. He had not crashed, but the impact of the landing had caused the damage to his ankle.

Miller was taken to the Dexeus Institut in Barcelona, where he was examined by Dr. Mir, and then had both the bones in his leg plated with screws. Examination after the surgery confirmed that it had been successful.

Are Honda Preparing a Major Engine Upgrade For 2016?

It is no secret that Honda are struggling with the engine for the RC213V MotoGP. HRC have been making the engine ever more aggressive for the past three years, but in 2015, they finally went too far. The power delivery of the RC213V was too difficult to contain, even with Honda's electronics, and HRC suffered their worst season in MotoGP since 2010.

Things had not been looking much better for 2016 either. The engine Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez tested at Valencia and Jerez last November was at best a marginal improvement, with a bit more power at the bottom end, but still delivered in a very aggressive manner. Added to this, HRC have had problems with the new unified software which is compulsory for 2016. Where Ducati, and to a lesser extent Yamaha have managed to integrate the less complex spec software into their engines, Honda have yet to get a handle on it. That has made assessing the engine character even more difficult for Pedrosa and Márquez, the Repsol Honda riders finding it hard to pinpoint aggressive and abrupt throttle response on the engine character, the cruder software, or the interaction between the two.

Brno Contract Secured Through 2020 - Association Will Pay €4.1 Million Per Race

The future of the Brno round of MotoGP has been secured for the foreseeable future. On Monday, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta signed a contract with the "Spolek pro GP ČR v Brno", an association set up to promote the Czech Grand Prix, to host the race at the Masarykring in Brno from 2016 until 2020.

MotoGP at Brno has been shrouded in doubt for the past few years. An ongoing dispute between the Masarykring circuit, or Automotodrom Brno, and regional authorities left the circuit in debt to Dorna after failing to pay the sanctioning fee demanded. The circuit owner Karel Abraham Sr. and Ivana Ulmanova, the circuit manager, were caught in a power struggle with the city council of Brno and Michal Hašek, the president of the South Moravia region. Dorna had threatened to take the race off the calendar unless all of the monies owed to the circuit were paid, and a long-term solution was found to prevent further problems.

The Massive 2016 MotoGP Rule Update: A Single Class With Concessions, Back Protectors Now Compulsory

With major changes to the technical regulations for MotoGP in 2016, it has taken some time for the FIM to produce a new and revised version of the rulebook. The first provisional version was made available today, the new rules bringing together all of the new rules agreed over the past few years into a single set of regulations. Most of the new rules have already been written about during the year, but putting them into a single rulebook helped clarify them greatly.

The biggest changes are to the technical regulations. The abolition of the Open class means everyone is back on a single set of rules. Or rather, nearly everyone. There are still two types of manufacturers: manufacturers subject to the standard rules, and manufacturers who have not yet had sufficient success, and therefore have been granted a number of concessions. Those concessions are more limited than the Open class, though, and relate now only to testing and to engine development. Everyone will have the same amount of fuel, the same tire allocation, and everyone will use the same electronics, the spec hardware and the unified software.

Though many fans are disappointed that there isn't just a single set of rules, the concessions which remain are absolutely vital to the long-term health of the series. With Honda, Yamaha, and since last year, Ducati, all subject to a freeze on engine development and limited testing, Suzuki and Aprilia (and KTM, when they join the series in 2017) stand a chance of cutting the gap to the more successful factories. Without concessions, the smaller factories wouldn't stand a chance of catching the others, especially not a factory with almost limitless resources like Honda. Indeed, without the concessions granted to Ducati, there is a very good chance the Italian factory would have left MotoGP in 2014, after three long years without results. The previous era, when the factories all competed under a single set of rules, ended up with just 17 bikes on the grid, and manufacturers showing more interest in leaving MotoGP than in joining. That situation has been completely reversed.

News Round Up 6th January: No, Ezpeleta Hasn't Been Fired, Nakamoto on the RC213V, and More

The start of a new year, and though there is little going on in the world of motorcycle racing in the first week of January, there is still enough to fill our weekly news round up. Here's what happened this week.

Hoax of the week: Ezpeleta to lose CEO job at Dorna?

It seemed like a huge scoop. Bridgepoint, the major shareholder in Dorna, were looking to oust Carmelo Ezpeleta as CEO, according to Paolo Gozzi, World Superbike correspondent for the Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport. Gozzi claimed that Bridgepoint executives were unhappy with Dorna's handling of the Rossi affair at the end of 2015, and of the financial results for 2014 and 2015.

Unfortunately for Gozzi, the entire story was incorrect. Italian website GPOne.com asked Ezpeleta about it, and his response was typically dry: "Is it April Fool's Day in Italy?" Though he did not want to dignify the claims with a response, his answer was simple. "There is no truth in this whatsoever."

That the story is inaccurate should be immediately obvious. However you feel about the outcome of the 2015 MotoGP championship, the affair undeniably sparked a massive increase in interest in the championship, and in the sport. All of a sudden, MotoGP was back in sports bulletins in countries outside of Spain and Italy, and in the sports pages of newspapers, not confined to the specialist press. Google Trends, which measures interest in subjects based on search trends, shows a big increase in interest in MotoGP in 2015, with a massive spike around the period of Phillip Island, Sepang, and Valencia. More importantly, the drop in interest after the end of the season was to a higher baseline than in previous years, suggesting that interest in MotoGP will be higher in 2016 again.

Lorenzo Switches Helmet Brands, Signs Three-Year Contract With Shark

Jorge Lorenzo's helmet issues through the 2015 season have finally caused him to switch brands. The Spaniard today announced he has signed a contract for the next three seasons with the French helmet maker Shark. Shark have a long history in MotoGP and World Superbikes, having supplied many top riders such as Olivier Jacque, Carl Fogarty, Randy De Puniet, and Troy Corser. They currently support Aleix Espargaro, Johann Zarco, the Lowes twins Alex and Sam, Tom Sykes, Sylvain Guintoli, Scott Redding and Miguel Oliveira, among others. As such, Shark is an established name in motorcycle racing and a known quantity.

Lorenzo had the chance to extend his contract with HJC, the Korean helmet manufacturer he had been with for the past three years. But Lorenzo suffered a number of issues with his HJC during the 2015 season which caused him to reconsider. At Qatar, he dropped from the leading group after a helmet liner came loose and obscured his vision. At Silverstone, he failed to fit the breath deflector, and suffered severe fogging during a very wet race. This was not the first time he had suffered fogging in the wet, though the issue was made much worse through his own decision not to use the breath deflector. 

Rating The Riders, 2015, Part 5: The Bottom End - Aprilia, Hayden, Miller, and the Rest

The final part of our review of the 2015 season, takes a look at the riders at the bottom end of the championship. Though they finished well behind the leaders, the list still contains some big names and interesting stories. Near the top are the Aprilias of Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl, as well as the surprising Loris Baz. There is the tough times faced by the Open class Honda riders, including Nicky Hayden and Jack Miller. And at the bottom, the men gritting their teeth through injury, including Alex De Angelis and Karel Abraham.

If you missed the first four parts of our season review, you can catch up with part 1, on the Movistar Yamaha men, part 2, on two Repsol Hondas, part 3, covering Andrea Iannone to Cal Crutchlow, and part 4, from Pol Espargaro to Hector Barbera.

A reminder: we review the performance of each rider below, giving them a mark out of ten for their ability to live up to or exceed expectations. As every year, we cover the riders in the order they finished in the championship.

Alvaro Bautista, Gresini Aprilia, 16th, 31 points
Score: 7

Alvaro Bautista started the 2015 season full of hope. Finally back as a factory rider, he hoped to help steer the development of the factory's RS-GP bike ahead of the new prototype to be rolled out in 2016. Bautista had expected a tough season, but he hadn't expected it to be this tough. There was little sign of progress throughout 2015, with new developments rolled out only slowly, and the Aprilia still losing out in too many areas to be competitive. Still very closely related to the Aprilia RSV4R from which it stems, the bike is heavy, underpowered, doesn't turn well, and suffers both in top speed and acceleration.

Rating The Riders, 2015, Part 4: The Espargaros, The Suzukis, Petrucci, Redding and Hernandez

Our review of the 2015 MotoGP season continues, with a look at the riders who finished in places nine through fifteen. Part 4 covers Pol Espargaro, Danilo Petrucci, the Suzuki riders Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales, Scott Redding, Yonny Hernandez and Hector Barbera. If you missed the first three parts of our season review, you can catch up with part 1, on the Movistar Yamaha men, part 2, on two Repsol Hondas, and part 3, covering Andrea Iannone to Cal Crutchlow.

A reminder: we review the performance of each rider below, giving them a mark out of ten for their ability to live up to or exceed expectations. As every year, we cover the riders in the order they finished in the championship.

Pol Espargaro, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 9th, 114 points
Score: 5

This was not the year that Pol Espargaro had hoped for. After a strong rookie season in 2014, when he outclassed his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha teammate Bradley Smith, Espargaro took a big step backward in 2015. The Spaniard finished with fewer points – 114, vs 136 in 2014 – and never really looked like getting involved in the battle for the podium, something which many were predicting at the end of last season.

What happened? It is hard to pinpoint exactly where the younger Espargaro went wrong in 2015, but the issue almost certainly lay within himself. The success he experienced in 2014 left him hungry for more, and he tried to push as hard as possible to go faster in 2015. The trouble is, that doesn't work on a Bridgestone-shod Yamaha MotoGP bike. The harder you try, the slower you go. It is all about being as calm, smooth and precise as possible, as Bradley Smith demonstrated.

Rating The Riders, 2015, Part 3: 5th to 8th, Iannone, Smith, Dovizioso and Crutchlow

In part 3 of our review of the 2015 season, we look a little further down the MotoGP grid, at places five to eight. Though much of the focus was on the Movistar Yamaha riders (covered in part 1) and Repsol Honda riders (covered in part 2), there was much to admire behind them. An impressive Andrea Iannone, who grew stronger throughout the season. A transformed Bradley Smith, who had a genuine shot at fourth in the championship for much of the season. Andrea Dovizioso, who did not benefit from the Ducati Desmosedici GP15 as his teammate. And Cal Crutchlow, how found the Honda RC213V a much harder bike to ride than he expected.

A reminder: we review the performance of each rider below, giving them a mark out of ten for their ability to live up to or exceed expectations. As every year, we cover the riders in the order they finished in the championship.

Andrea Iannone, Factory Ducati, 5th, 188 points
Score: 9

Crazy Joe, they used to call him. That was a particularly unsuitable moniker for Andrea Iannone in 2015. If anything, this was the year that Iannone turned out to be calm, measured, and calculating. Iannone had earned his earlier nickname through his propensity to make wildly optimistic moves, which, given his prodigious talent, he pulled off more often than not. When he didn't pull them off, he would crash out.

The 2015 version of the Maniac Joe – a nickname adopted a couple of years back – was very different. He reined himself in, and reaped the benefits. The difference was borne out by number of race crashes between last season and this season. In 2014, Iannone crashed out of four races. In 2015, he only crashed out of a single race, the last one at Valencia, when he had very little left to lose. Even Iannone's madness was calculated.

MotoGP News Round Up: Brno vs Indy, Stoner at Ducati, Valencia Fallout, and Some Holiday Entertainment

With Christmas nearly upon us, and very little happening in the world of motorcycle racing, time for a round up of recent news. Here's what's been going on in recent weeks, as well as some recommended reading and listening for over the holiday period.

Brno vs Indy - On or Off?

The news that the Indianapolis round of MotoGP had been dropped came as a huge disappointment to a lot of US fans. Though few people were fans of the track layout – despite recent improvements which took the worst edges off the layout – the event as a whole was well liked, and, for a US MotoGP round, fairly well attended.

In recent weeks, rumors have been circulating that the event could make a return. Though just speculation at the moment, Indianapolis could be being groomed as a possible replacement for the Czech round of MotoGP at Brno. Given the troubled recent history of the Brno round, and the excellent organization behind the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there is a chance that behind the smoke, there is a fire powering the rumors.

Rating The Riders, 2015, Part 2: Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa

In part 1 of our review of the 2015 season for the MotoGP grid, we looked back at the season of the two men who fought for the championship, Movistar Yamaha teammates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. In part 2, we continue with third place in the championship and beyond. If the battle for the championship was thrilling and tense, what happened to the riders behind the leaders was even more intriguing.

A reminder: we review the performance of each rider below, giving them a mark out of ten for their ability to live up to or exceed expectations. As every year, we cover the riders in the order they finished in the championship.

Marc Márquez, Repsol Honda, 3rd, 242 points
Score: 8

This was Marc Márquez' worst season in Grand Prix racing since 2009. From 2010 onwards, in 125s, Moto2 or MotoGP, Márquez has finished as either champion or runner up. Not only did Márquez finish outside the top two for the first time since finishing eighth in 2009, but this was also his worst championship points total since that year. You could say this was a very bad year for the Repsol Honda rider.

Rating The Riders, 2015, Part 1: Jorge Lorenzo And Valentino Rossi

As the year winds to a conclusion, now is a good time to look back at the 2016 MotoGP season, and assess how the riders have done this year. It has been a fantastic season for MotoGP. The fans have been treated to some of the best and closest racing in years. Several races became instant classics, such as the tight battle at Assen decided in the final chicane, the bizarre rain-hit and incident-packed race at Misano, the scintillating four-way fight at Phillip Island.

The championship went all the way down to the final race, decided in the end by just five points. There was controversy and scandal, with the clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez at Sepang following Rossi's accusations of collusion between Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo at Phillip Island. There were last minute appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, in an attempt to get the penalty imposed at Sepang lifted.

New bikes, new factories and the resurgence of Ducati thrilled fans as well. Gigi Dall'Igna's ability to get a racing department to work smarter, not harder, paid off for Ducati with the Desmosedici GP15, perhaps the most competitive motorcycle Ducati have built since the GP7, or even the GP6. Suzuki brought the GSX-RR, a brilliant bike with bags of potential but lacking a seamless gearbox and a stableful of ponies. The M1 was the best bike which Yamaha have ever brought to MotoGP, while Honda's RC213V was probably their worst since 2007. Even Aprilia turned up and took it seriously, though 2015 was more of a data-gathering year than an attempt to challenge. We will be talking about this season for a very long time to come.

So how did each rider do? We review the performance of each rider below, giving them a mark out of ten for their ability to live up to or exceed expectations. As every year, we cover the riders in the order they finished in the championship.

MotoGP Rules Update: Tire Allocation Expanded, Open Class Killed Off

The Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule-making body, met last week to make a few minor updates to the rules for MotoGP in 2016. The two biggest changes to the rules relate to the two biggest changes to the series for next year: the change of tire suppliers and the switch to spec electronics.

The change that will most please the fans will be the official end of the Open class. All references to both the Open and Factory classes are to be removed from the regulations, as the switch to spec electronics, all teams running both the standard Magneti Marelli hardware and official Dorna unified software, mean there is only one class in MotoGP again. This does not mean that all factories are equal, however. Special concessions remain for factories which have not won a race and have not yet accrued six concession points (based on podium positions). Manufacturers with concessions will be allowed to use nine engines for a season instead of seven engines, they will be allowed unlimited testing with factory riders instead of test riders, and engine development will not be frozen. 

Those concessions are likely to stay in place for the foreseeable future. The aim of the concessions is to slow the rate of progress of the successful factories to give newcomers and less successful factories a chance to keep up. The progress Ducati have made in 2015 has confirmed to the series organizers that this is a successful policy, and will be continued.

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