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2016 Motegi MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Return of the Highside

If anyone was nostalgic for the days of 500cc two strokes, they got a glimpse of what the dark side of that era was like this weekend at Motegi. Rider after rider has been flung from his bike, spat into the air as a rear tire slipped then bit again, snapping the bike around, suspension compressing and then explosively decompressing, catapulting the rider into the sky. It has kept the medical helicopter busy: Eugene Laverty and Jorge Lorenzo have been flown to and fro for medical examination, with the second helicopter kept on standby having to take its place.

On Friday, the victims had been Eugene Laverty and Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa had paid the heaviest price, snapping his right collarbone and flying home to Spain for another operation – his fourteenth, by all counts. Laverty had escaped relatively lightly, but was still forced to sit out the morning session on Saturday as a precaution. Jorge Lorenzo was even more fortunate. He was launched at Turn 3 at the end of FP3, and had to be flown to hospital for checks, before being allowed to return and take part in FP4. He feared he had damaged his left ankle, but checks revealed it was just bruising.

2016 Motegi MotoGP Friday Notes: Highsides, Tires, and the Speed of Marquez

What is the biggest downside of the flyaways? The three back-to-back races are crucial on the way to the end of the championship. This is the time you need to perform, where you can make the difference by pushing that little bit harder. The downside, of course, is that if you push too far you can lose everything. "Three races in a row is always complicated," Valentino Rossi told the press conference on Thursday. "You can have a small problem in the first race and pay a lot."

Dani Pedrosa Fractures Collarbone, Out for Flyaways

Dani Pedrosa has suffered more bad luck at Motegi. For the second time in his career, he has crashed there and broken a collarbone.

The Repsol Honda rider suffered a huge highside at the end of the afternoon FP2 session, being flung high into the air at Turn 11. The Spaniard immediate got up holding his collarbone, and was taken on the back of a scooter to the medical center. There, he was diagnosed with a fractured right collarbone.

2016 Motegi MotoGP Preview: Punishing Schedules, Punishing Braking, and Winner #9?

MotoGP is about to enter the toughest stretch of the season. Three races on three consecutive weekends is tough enough. But three races separated by three, seven plus hour flights, kicking off with a race in a time zone seven hours ahead of the place most riders live. So riders, mechanics and team staff all start off a triple header struggling with jet lag and facing a grueling schedule.

And they are thrown in the deep end from the very start. Only the MotoGP riders can afford to stay at the Twin Ring circuit near Motegi. Most of the team staff stay in Mito, an hour's drive from the track, meaning they have to travel for two hours a day. Up in the hills in the middle of Japan's main island, and sufficiently far north for temperatures to drop in the fall, Motegi is notorious for poor weather. It is usually cold, often damp, and sometimes ravaged by typhoons.

Hector Barbera to Replace Andrea Iannone, Mike Jones in for Barbera

Three days after announcing that they would not be replacing the injured Andrea Iannone, the factory Ducati squad have changed their mind. On Thursday, the Bologna factory announced that Hector Barbera would be taking Iannone's place in the factory Ducati team, while Barbera's slot in the Avintia Ducati MotoGP team will be taken by Australian rider Mike Jones.

The decision was forced upon Ducati by Dorna and IRTA. Under the FIM regulations, teams must make "every reasonable effort" to replace an absent rider, with only force majeure (or exceptional circumstances beyond their control) acceptable as a reason to leave a seat empty. The series organizers clearly believed that force majeure did not apply in this case, as Iannone's decision to skip the race was due to an injury picked up at Misano, five weeks ago.

Why Would Yamaha's Prevent Jorge Lorenzo From Testing the Ducati at Jerez?

The legal oddity that riders' contracts are out of sync with the MotoGP season creates an uncomfortable truce among the factories. When riders sign with a factory, their contracts run from 1st January to 31st December. But for the factories and teams, the new season starts on the Tuesday after the last race of the year, at Valencia.

This is a particular problem for the 2017 season, with so many riders changing factories. Traditionally, there has been a gentlemen's agreement among the factories to allow the riders to test with their new team, despite still being under contract to the old one. So in previous years, the likes of Valentino Rossi (twice) and Casey Stoner have lapped Valencia aboard their new steeds dressed in plain leathers.

The plain leathers are just one side of the compromise. As a rule, the riders switching factories are not allowed to speak to the media, or only allowed to speak in the most general of terms, avoiding direct comparison between their new bikes and their old bikes. The riders continue to perform PR duties for their old factories up until the end of the contract deadline.

Andrea Iannone to Skip Motegi, Back for Phillip Island

Andrea Iannone is to miss the MotoGP round at Motegi. The Italian has been advised by his doctors to skip the first of the three Pacific flyaway rounds to allow the vertebra he fractured at Misano to heal. 

Iannone picked up the injury on the first day of his home race at Misano. Though the injury is on the forward side of the T3 vertebra, making it less vulnerable to a repeat injury, the fracture has caused him to miss both Misano and Aragon. Motegi will be the third race which Iannone will be forced to miss.

2017 MotoGP Test Dates - Sepang, Phillip Island, Qatar

The 2017 season is starting to take shape. After the announcement of the provisional 2017 MotoGP calendar in the run up to Aragon, Dorna published the schedule of official tests for the 2017 preseason. Like the race calendar, the test calendar looks remarkably similar to last year.

Testing kicks off after the final race of 2016 in Valencia, and as last year, the riders get a day off between the race and the test, with the bikes taking to the track on Tuesday. Up until last year, the test had always started on the Monday after the race, but that was changed last year, with the explanation that the teams needed an extra day of preparation to get the bikes set up with the Michelin tires and spec electronics.

No major technical rules are to change for 2017 (with the exception of the banning of winglets), but the extra day of rest is to be maintained. Teams felt that the quality of feedback on Monday was often poor, with riders having spent all their energy in the last race of the year, the effort of the season just past catching up with them. A day off to recover, both physically and mentally, should allow the riders to focus more during the two-day test, and provide better feedback.

2016 Aragon MotoGP Post-Race Round Up: How Championships Are Won & Lost

Momentum. That's what the last race before the Australasian triple header is all about. Momentum heading towards the end of the championship. Coming out on top and carrying it forward to Motegi, Phillip Island, and Sepang is vital. The deal may get done on one of the flyaways, but Aragon is the place where the riders put their chips on the table.

All three races on Sunday had a huge impact on the MotoGP championship. In the first race of the day, a title was settled. In the second race of the day, the championship was blown even further open. The final race of the day saw another brick hammered into the wall of Marc Márquez' third MotoGP title, and further cemented his legacy. It was a good day's racing.

There are a lot of ways to win titles, but the way the 2016 Moto3 championship was settled was about as fitting as it could be. At the end of a classic Moto3 race, where a strong group battled for control until the final four laps, four men broke away from the pack. That group consisted of Brad Binder, the two men who could still mathematically challenge Binder for the 2016 title, Enea Bastianini and Jorge Navarro, and rookie revelation Fabio Di Giannantonio.

2016 Aragon MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Revenge Of The Marquez

Motorcycle racing is the cruelest form of addiction. What racers need to feed their habit is to win, but winning is hard, one of the hardest things of all. To do so, you have to go beyond yourself, push beyond your limits, exceed what you thought was possible.

That creates a paradox: if you want to win a championship, sometimes you have to accept you can't win a race. Too much of that servility, though, and ambition will chafe at the bit. The temptation to have a go is hard to resist, with the risk of ending in gravelly ignominy.

That has been the fate of Marc Márquez so far this season. Wins have been few this season, just three in thirteen races. Even podiums have eluded him, Márquez ending off the box in three of the last four races. There is only so much a young man bursting with ambition can take.

2016 Aragon MotoGP Friday Round Up: Tire Preservation, Honda Race Pace, and Allowing Riders to be Human

Could there be a ninth winner in nine MotoGP races? On Thursday, the massed ranks of MotoGP riders had elected Andrea Dovizioso for the role. "I'm happy they said my name," Dovizioso told us journalists on Friday, "but they have put a lot of pressure on me. Because I have to win this race, and today wasn't the best day for me to try to think about winning..."

The Ducati rider had struggled with a lack of grip on the track, adding to the fact that this is not a great track for Dovizioso. "This track doesn't have the best characteristic for my style," he said. Dovizioso's strength lies in hard braking and quick turning, and there is not enough of that to suit the Italian. Add low grip to that, and he faces an uphill struggle.

Dovizioso also faces Aragon with a new teammate. Andrea Iannone has once again been forced to withdraw, the T3 vertebra he injured at Misano causing him too much pain to continue. He could manage three or four laps, before needing to return to the pits and get some rest. With 22 laps coming up on Sunday, Iannone quickly understood that would be too much. Michele Pirro was already on standby, and once FP1 made it clear that Iannone would not be able to ride, Ducati's test rider was put on the bike.

2016 Aragon MotoGP Thursday Round Up: On Momentum, Wings, Arm Pump and a Possible Title

Is there such a thing as momentum in sports? Athletes – that includes MotoGP racers, who are in peak physical condition and should be considered as such – believe strongly in momentum. Statisticians disagree. Momentum exists for as long as a team or an athlete keeps winning, or achieving success. Once they stop, then the momentum is gone. But there is never an explanation for why they lose, and why something tagged as momentum should so suddenly disappear.

Whatever statistics may say, if athletes believe momentum exists, then momentum matters. And if there was a moment when momentum matters, it is going into the three-race flyaways. After Sunday night, the MotoGP grid faces a brief break, and then three races in three weekends with long flights in between. It is the toughest part of the MotoGP schedule, and it helps to go into it with a strong mindset. A good result on Sunday will help a lot in that respect. If that is what momentum is, then momentum matters.

2017 Provisional MotoGP Calendar - Almost Identical to 2016

There is a current fashion in moviemaking, of taking proven formulas from the past, giving them a light makeover and then relaunching them, then trying to spice them up by referring to them as a "reboot" or "reloaded". Dorna executives must have been to see Ghostbusters, Mad Max, and many more, as the 2017 MotoGP calendar is best described as 2016 Reloaded.

The 2017 MotoGP calendar is almost identical to the 2016 calendar, with a couple of minor tweaks. Those tweaks are a clear improvement on 2016: there are fewer large gaps, and there are fewer back-to-back races. There have been some changes to help with logistics, and some to help with race organizations. 

A Question of Trust: Matching Riders to Crew Chiefs

The music has stopped for the MotoGP riders, with all of them now having taken their seats for next year. That does not mean that contract season is over, however. We are in the middle of another migration, this time of crew chiefs and mechanics.

It all started with Jorge Lorenzo. The Movistar Yamaha rider's move to Ducati for next season left him needing a crew chief. Once his current crew chief Ramon Forcada made the decision to stay with Yamaha, and work with Maverick Viñales, who takes Lorenzo's place, that precipitated a search for someone to work with the Spaniard at Ducati.

It was a search which took some time, but which saw Cristian Gabarrini tempted back to Ducati. The quiet, reflective Italian had been set somewhat adrift after the retirement of Casey Stoner, with whom Gabarrini won MotoGP titles at Ducati and Honda. First, he acted as engineering advisor to Marc Márquez and his crew chief Santi Hernandez, but Márquez made it clear he wanted only to work with Hernandez. Then he was put in charge of Honda's Open Class project, and managing the bikes.

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