Latest MotoGP News
Keep Austin Weird is the slogan of the Austin Independent Business Alliance, meant to promote small businesses in the Texan city. The Circuit of the Americas certainly did its bit this weekend. We had a delay due to marshals and medical support staff not being at their posts. We had a red flag due to a stray dog on the track. We had delays due to fog, we had one day of rain, followed by two days of peering at the skies wondering when the massive rainstorms which had been forecast would arrive. They never did. We had Keanu Reeves, star of both The Matrix and Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure, in the paddock, as well Carol Vorderman, British TV's brainiest beauty, at least for gentlemen of a certain age. You wouldn't imagine it could get much weirder.
It did get weirder, though. The MotoGP race ended up delayed by half an hour, because rainwater was dripping off a bridge over the track around Turn 3, leaving a puddle of standing water on the circuit. There had been some water there during the Moto2 race, Sam Lowes saying he had been very cautious through that section, as the bike was moving about. Franco Morbidelli had reveled in it, enjoying the feeling of the rear moving around as he powered through the puddle. Racers will be racers.
The sun which emerged at the start of the MotoGP race made the situation worse, paradoxically. Elsewhere, the track was fully dry and warm, but standing water remained in the shadow of the bridge. While making its final inspection lap of the track five minutes before the start, the safety car reported the water to Race Direction, and Race Director Mike Webb pushed the big red button to delay the start. That is not an easy decision. Webb knows that as soon as he presses the button to delay the start of a MotoGP race, it costs Dorna millions of dollars in TV penalty clauses around the world. It does not stop him pressing it, however, safety being paramount. If anyone ever wondered if Dorna sacrificed safety for TV money, their question was answered on Sunday.
The press room is usually a pit of cynicism. Races and laps which have the fans on their feet are met with polite applause at best, mild disinterest at worst. But not today. After Marc Márquez had parked his ailing Repsol Honda against pit wall, vaulted over the wall and sprinted back to his garage, jumped on to his back up bike – fitted with the wrong front tire and a far from perfect set up – then set off on his out lap, making it back across the line with three seconds to spare, and post one of the most fearsome laps ever witnessed aboard a MotoGP bike, the room erupted in heartfelt and solid applause. There was no cheering, no utterances of joy. Just loud and prolonged applause, appreciation of what we had just seen. We knew we were witnessing a piece of MotoGP history, and were in awe of what we had just seen. If you ever wanted to see the definition of awesome – something that will fill you with awe – then just watch that lap by Marc Márquez.
2015 Austin Friday MotoGP Round Up: Postponed Sessions, Stray Dogs, and The Final Word On Casey Stoner
The day did not start well. It was not just the high winds and the rain which created problems at the Circuit of the Americas. An absence of track staff – apparently, a lack of medical marshals when the first session of the day was due to start – meant that FP1 for the Moto3 class was delayed by three quarters of an hour. Conditions were pretty miserable once they got underway, but, it turned out, things could be worse. That became apparent when the MotoGP session was red flagged, after a stray dog ran onto the track – that's on the track, not along the side, but actually on it. It took a good fifteen minutes to chase the dog off the track and towards safety, making the old cliché about herding cats seem strangely inappropriate.
By the time practice resumed, the original schedule had gone to hell. The qualifying session for the MotoAmerica Superbike class was rapidly dropped, and the lunch break dispensed with, getting the event quickly back on track.
Despite the weirdness, it turned into a good day. The rain all morning meant the track was at least consistently wet for all three FP1 sessions, as well as FP2 for Moto3. Rainfall stopped towards the end of that practice, with MotoGP starting on a wet track, but the surface drying rapidly, bar a stream of water crossing the back straight. That was a little unsettling, several riders finding themselves in trouble with aquaplaning through it. Overall, though, the consensus was that the track offered pretty reasonable grip in the wet.
2015 Austin Thursday MotoGP Round Up: Stoner Vs Pedrosa, Nice Guy Nicky, And How To Beat Arm Pump With Braking
One of the hottest topics of conversation at Austin revolved around two men who were not there. One, Dani Pedrosa, is out after having had radical surgery to try to fix arm pump. The other was a man who would have liked to have ridden, but whom fate, or HRC, decided against. Casey Stoner made it clear in a tweet on Thursday that he would have liked to have ridden, and that he did not feel he needed protecting.
The back story? It seems that it was actually Casey Stoner's idea to ride at Austin, to replace Dani Pedrosa, but HRC rejected the idea. HRC, having seen Stoner's test times – rumored to be well over a second off the pace of Márquez and Pedrosa at Sepang – feared that the Australian would not be competitive at the two races Pedrosa is certain to miss. HRC top brass, especially Livio Suppo and Shuhei Nakamoto, have a soft spot for Casey Stoner, and apparently feared the effect which struggling to finish ahead of the satellite riders could have had upon the Australian. In the tweet he posted on Thursday evening (shown below), Stoner made it clear that he had entirely realistic expectations of how replacing Pedrosa may have turned out.
Bummer I'm not racing, no prep was needed as I wasn't planning on winning, just replacing a good friend and having some fun in Texas!:)— Casey Stoner (@Official_CS27) April 9, 2015
What does this mean? It seems safe to infer that Casey Stoner will be back on a MotoGP bike sooner rather than later. A full-time return remains entirely improbable, but a wild card, or another replacement ride, could happen pretty soon.
Ever since he first entered the MotoGP class, Marc Márquez has owned the Circuit of the Americas at Austin. In 2013, in just his second ever MotoGP event, he was fastest in all but two practice sessions, then went on to win the race, becoming the youngest ever MotoGP winner in the process. A year later, he was fastest in every session, and extended his advantage over his teammate in the race, winning by over four seconds. The gap to third that year was demoralizing: Andrea Dovizioso crossed the line nearly 21 seconds after Márquez had taking victory.
With two one-two victories for Honda in two years at Austin, does anyone else really stand a chance? Surprisingly, it seems there might be. Much has changed over the past year: the renaissance at Ducati, the improvements at Yamaha, both of the bike and, more significantly, of the riders. And with Dani Pedrosa out with injury, Márquez faces the challenge from Movistar Yamaha and factory Ducati alone.
It is also easy to forget that the 2014 race was a real anomaly. First, Jorge Lorenzo took himself out of contention early. An out-of-shape Lorenzo arrived at Austin under pressure after crashing out at Qatar. He got distracted on the grid and jumped the start by a country mile, his race over even before it began. Valentino Rossi struggled with a front tire that chewed itself up, putting him out of contention almost immediately. And though the Ducatis were better than they had been before, the GP14 used in the first few races was a far cry from the much better GP14.2 which Ducati raced at the end of the year. Finally, Márquez himself was brimming with confidence, having won the first race of the season despite having broken his leg just four weeks before.
Racing season is now truly upon us. MotoGP kicked off ten days ago at Qatar, last weekend the British Superbike championship had their first race of the year at Donington Park, and this weekend sees a bumper crop of racing. MotoGP is at Austin, where MotoAmerica also kicks off its inaugural season since taking over the AMA series from the DMG. World Superbikes heads to the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain, where they are joined by the Superstock 1000 and Superstock 600 classes. It is going to be a busy weekend.
Despite the bustle of action, the amount of real news emerging has been limited. Teams and riders are too busy racing, absorbing the lessons of the first races while preparing for the next races, to be plotting and scheming beyond that. Here's a rundown of things you might have missed this weekend anyway.
And you thought the Stoner return was a surprise...
Casey Stoner was a candidate to replace the injured Dani Pedrosa. The Australian had discussions with HRC about stepping in to take Pedrosa's place during his absence. In the end, it was decided that a return would not be possible at such short notice. It was decided that Hiroshi Aoyama would be a better choice of replacement in the circumstances.
Asked via email by MotoMatters.com whether Honda had had discussions with Stoner over replacing Pedrosa, Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo confirmed that they had. "We spoke about the possibility for Casey to replace Dani," Suppo admitted. But Stoner would have faced major challenges replacing Pedrosa for the next two MotoGP rounds. The Australian has never raced at either Austin or Termas de Rio Hondo, the two tracks having been added to the MotoGP calendar after Stoner retired from MotoGP. He has also had only very limited testing, having spent three days on the factory Honda RC213V ahead of the first Sepang test, while the rest of the MotoGP grid has had eight days of full testing plus the first round of racing at Qatar.
2016 MotoGP Rules Clarified: 7 Engines, 22 Liters, 157kg, Concession Points Performance Balancing Introduced
The Grand Prix Commission have filled in the last question marks over the 2016 MotoGP regulations. While the decision on the amount of fuel the bikes would be allowed to run had already been decided last year, the rules on a minimum weight, the number of engines to be used, and how and whether the concessions allowed to manufacturers without a win would be extended into 2016 and beyond. All of these questions were settled at Qatar.
The GPC meeting, where Dorma, the FIM, the manufacturers and the teams meet to agree a set of rules, confirmed that all bikes in MotoGP next year will use 22 liters of fuel. They also agreed that the minimum weight would be 157kg, and that each rider would be allowed a maximum of 7 engines to last the year. Both these measures were compromises: originally, there was a proposal to reduce the minimum to 156kg, but after a reduction to 158kg for this year, it was felt that may be too fast.
As for the number of engines, the Italian manufacturers found themselves pitted against the Japanese. Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha all wanted the number reduced to 6 engines per season, while Ducati and Aprilia lobbied for 9 engines. As the MSMA could not reach a unanimous conclusion, Dorna proposed a compromise, and the figure of 7 engines a season was accepted. Engine development will remain frozen, as before.
The operation to fix Dani Pedrosa's arm pump has been judged a success. Dr. Angel Villamor performed a fasciectomy via microsurgery today, removing the membrane that encloses the forearm muscles to allow them to expand. The procedure is a radical one, but having had two prior fasciotomy operations - where the membrane is merely opened, but not removed - which failed to alleviate the symptoms, it was one of the very few courses of action left open to the Spaniard.
Pedrosa is due to be discharged from the hospital shortly, and wil return home to begin his recovery. During the period of physical rehabilitation, Pedrosa's progress will be monitored very closely, to ensure it progresses well.
The recovery period is at least four to six weeks, which means that Pedrosa will miss the Austin and Argentina rounds of MotoGP. Whether he will return for Jerez is not certain: Pedrosa will only return to racing once Dr. Villamor has judged the surgery to be a complete success.
The press release issued by Honda on Pedrosa's surgery is shown below:
Successful surgery for Pedrosa in Madrid
Dani Pedrosa's announcement after the Qatar Grand Prix that he would be withdrawing from racing to seek urgent treatment for arm pump immediately triggered an explosion of speculation over who might replace the Spaniard during his absence. Fans and pundits offered a barrage of possible names to take Pedrosa's place: Casey Stoner, Cal Crutchlow, Michael van der Mark, Jack Miller, Nicky Hayden. Coming as it did just before April Fool's day, it even triggered a spate of hoax stories: Casey Stoner, Mick Doohan, Alex Marquez and Fabio Quartararo were all offered in jest.
Hiroshi Aoyama was always going to be the man to replace Pedrosa, however. For a range of reasons, Aoyama is the only reasonable candidate to take the place of Pedrosa in the short term, all the other names being bandied about subject to sponsor conflicts, race conflicts, contractual obligations or just plain unwillingness. Here's a rundown of why Aoayama got the call, and the others didn't.
Dani Pedrosa is to undergo surgery on his right forearm to treat the arm pump that has plagued him for the past year. The Spaniard is to be treated in Spain, by Dr Angel Villamor, who has treated many other racers for the same problem. Surgery is scheduled to take place on Friday morning, with a recovery period of four to six weeks afterwards, meaning that Pedrosa is certain to miss both the Austin and Argentina rounds of MotoGP. Hiroshi Aoyama will replace Pedrosa for the two upcoming rounds.
As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. First and foremost, Dani Pedrosa's arm pump issues are very real, and he is seeking urgent treatment for the problem. This April Fool's joke was not entirely in the best of taste, for which we offer our apologies, most of all to Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa is one of the finest racers of his generation, as his place in the list of all-time winners shows all too clearly. The joke was meant in the be best possible way. For a more sober reflection on Pedrosa's injury, read the blog piece I wrote for On Track Off Road magazine.
There were lots of clues that this was a joke, however. There is the small matter of Pedrosa being halfway through a MotoGP contract with HRC, set to ride for Repsol Honda in 2016. What's more, Dani Pedrosa will be 31 in 2016, and the maximum age in Moto3 is 28. Pedrosa would never be allowed to enter Moto3. Even more ridiculous is the idea that Pedrosa would leave Honda, having raced for the factory his entire life. He has shown no interest in racing in any other class, either, and will most likely retire from racing when he leaves MotoGP, whenever that happens to be. As for the financial inducements by KTM and Red Bull, well, it is easy enough to calculate just how much they would be worth...
Though we rather regret the lost age of class specialists dominating junior classes, riders like Angel Nieto, Toni Mang and Juan Martinez forming the first hurdle for youngsters on the way to a glorious career, Moto3 is now a stepping stone for young riders entering Grand Prix racing. For another year, all of the stories on the website will be as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed...
The cause of Dani Pedrosa's shock announcement that he will be withdrawing from racing temporarily to seek treatment for arm pump has finally been unearthed. MotoMatters has learned that in addition to seeking treatment for the medical condition, Pedrosa is headed to Austria, where he is to test KTM's Moto3 machine ahead of a shock return to the junior class in 2016, in pursuit of a fourth world championship. Pedrosa believes racing the lighter Moto3 bikes will allow him to avoid arm pump, and prolong his Grand Prix career. Alongside racing for KTM in Moto3 in 2016, Pedrosa will help develop the Austrian manufacturer's MotoGP prototype, ahead of its debut in 2017.
MotoMatters uncovered the story while waiting to follow Pedrosa to the VUMC hospital in Amsterdam. A source in Qatar had revealed that the Spaniard would be flying to Holland for treatment at the hospital, with a reputation for dealing with sports injuries. Pedrosa was seen to arrive at Schiphol airport, where he was greeted by a woman wearing an orange uniform. Recognizing the woman as Avril Fisch, long-standing group leader of KTM's engine development department, we approached close enough to be within earshot, without being seen.
When Pedrosa came through the doors of the arrival's hall, Frau Fisch greeted the Spaniard with the words, "So, Dani, ready for your challenge in Moto3 next year?" At that point, we confronted Fisch and Pedrosa, where they confessed their plans.
Drive M7, the Malaysian energy drink firm, has issued a response to the claims by Aspar that Drive had pulled out of sponsoring team at the last minute. Last Wednesday, the day before the 2015 MotoGP season was due to kick off, Aspar boss Juan Martinez claimed that Drive M7 had only just told him about their decision to pull out of sponsoring the team the day before. Drive M7 disputes that version of events.
When approached by top British motorcycle racing publication Bikesport News for a response to those claims, the Malaysian energy drink company issued a statement explaining that they understood that the 2014 sponsorship agreement - worth €1.8 million - would not be extended due to ongoing claims of trademark infringement. In June 2014, the Aspar team received a legal notice that they were infringing the trademark of an existing company, who hold the rights to the use of the word Drive for an energy drink in the European Union. Searching the international trademark database TMVIEW turns up a large number of companies using words such as 'drive' and 'driver' - including many breweries - as well as a Spanish firm holding a trademark for Driver EnergyJuice. Whether any of these companies are involved in the dispute is not known.
Ducati is to lose the first of the special concessions granted at the start of the 2014 season. The two podiums which Ducati scored at Qatar bring its dry podium total to three, which means that the fuel allowance for all Factory Option Ducati bikes will be cut from 24 liters to 22 liters, as we reported on Sunday night. The allowance of 22 liters is still 2 liters more than the 20 liters used by Yamaha and Honda, who race without any concessions.
The extra fuel allowance was part of a package of extra allowances granted to Ducati to persuade them to remain a Factory Option entry and not to switch to the Open class. Manufacturers entering MotoGP for the first time in 2015, or like Ducati, did not have a dry win during the 2013 season, were granted a number of exceptions to the standard rules. Such factories were given 24 liters of fuel rather than 20, were allowed to use 12 engines a season instead of 5, were not subject to the freeze on engine development, were allowed unlimited testing, and were given the softer tire allocation granted to the Open class entries.