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WorldSBK Organizers Attempt To Inject Excitement By Manipulating Race 2 Grid

The Superbike Commission, governing body for the WorldSBK series, met at Madrid to introduce a number of changes to the rules for the World Superbike and World Supersport championships for 2017. There were some minor changes to the sporting regulations, as well as a couple of tweaks to the technical regulations. But there were also two major changes which will have a significant impact for next season and beyond.

The biggest change is also the most surprising and the least comprehensible. There is to be a major shake up in the way the grid for the second World Superbike race is set. The Superpole session run on Saturday morning will continue to set the grid for Race 1. The grid for Race 2, however, will be partially set by the results of Race 1, using a slightly complex formula.

The first three rows of the grid for Race 2 will be filled by the riders who finished in 1st through 9th place in Race 1. They will not, however, line up in their finishing order. The riders who finished in 4th, 5th, and 6th in Race 1 will start Race 2 from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd on the grid. The riders who finished in 7th, 8th, and 9th will start from 4th, 5th, and 6th.

The riders who finished on the podium, however, will line up on the third row of the grid in reverse order. This means that the winner will line up in 9th, the rider who finished 2nd will start in 8th, and the rider who finished in 3rd will start the race from 7th on the grid.

The grid from 10th place onwards will be set based on Superpole results. That does not necessarily mean that the starting positions 10 through 22 will be the same as in Race 1, however, as riders who started outside of the top 9 places, but finished 9th or better will move up. similarly, riders who qualified in the top 9 but crashed out or finished outside the top 9 will be reshuffled down to the fourth row or worse.

All this makes calculating grid positions a little complicated for 10th place and beyond. Basically, the riders who did not finish in the top 9 in Race 1 will start Race 2 in order of their qualifying time. Of the remaining riders, the rider with the best qualifying position from Superpole will start from 10th, the second best qualifying position will start from 11th, etc. 

The most controversial change is obviously the change to the top 9, however. In what appears to be an attempt to make the racing a little more exciting, success in Race 1 is to be punished, with the podium finishers being put back to the third row of the grid. The idea, presumably, is that the best riders from Race 1 will have to make their way through traffic, providing some excitement and making it more difficult for a rider who dominates Race 1 to do the same in Race 2. 

This would appear to be a misguided idea for several reasons: firstly, the essence of World Championship motorcycle racing is to find the rider and machine combination which performs best in each race. Adding additional, complex obstacles to one group while not applying the same to another would appear to violate the sporting ethos of a World Championship series. That risks alienating the hard core of World Superbike fans which are the backbone of the sport.

Secondly, making the way the grid is set so complex risks making it difficult for casual fans to understand what is going on. Fans will find it hard to remember the process, and have difficulty explaining it to their friends. Though ultimately, grid positions are not the most important part of a race weekend, unnecessary complexity is more likely to make things worse rather than better. 

Finally, it is unlikely to make much difference. In 2016, Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, and Chaz Davies split the overwhelming majority of race wins among them. Rea and Davies both won races starting from 6th position, while Sykes won starting from 4th and finished 2nd starting from 5th. Rea, Sykes, and Davies were dominant throughout 2016, often finishing many seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Starting from 7th through 9th will slow them up only slightly, and is unlikely to reduce their chances of winning. 

Such a system is more likely to result in one rider dominating the second race. With the three best riders on the third row, the chances of them all hitting the front together is slim. It is more likely that one rider will get a break and get through quickly, while one or both of the others gets caught up briefly. If one of the fastest riders hits the front on his own, he is more likely to get a gap and get away.

An intellectually more interesting question - but one which again highlights the weakness of the new system - is whether it places a premium on finishing 4th. The points differential between finishing 3rd and 4th in Race 1 is 3 points (16 vs 13). The question riders who find themselves battling for 3rd in Race 1 will have to ask themselves is whether they will gain more points over their championship rivals in Race 2 by starting from pole than they would by taking the 3 extra points for 3rd and starting from 7th, two rows further back. Battles for 3rd place could devolve into the opposite, a battle for 4th with riders slowing down to try to force the others to overtake. That will not make the championship look very good.

It is easy to guess why the Superbike Commission made such a change. With the popularity of the series languishing, they are trying to find a way to make it more attractive. They are caught between a rock and a hard place, however: they have already split up the two-race format over two days, and moved the races to start at 1pm local time. They have done this to avoid racing at the same time as Formula One, which they often clash with over the course of the season. The early races make it less attractive to attend each weekend, but more attractive for TV stations, who can show the World Superbike series without the fear of having to go against the ratings juggernaut which is Formula One. 

The question is, just how successful will this rule change be? The omens are not particularly good. 

The second major change to the rules is far less controversial. World Supersport races are now also to be run under the same flag-to-flag format as World Superbike. This requires a change in the technical rules, to allow parts to be replaced which will make wheel swaps faster.

Below is the press release containing the new regulations:


FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships
Changes to the Regulations for 2017

The Superbike Commission composed of Messrs Gregorio Lavilla (WSBK Sporting Department Director), Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA Representative), Rezsö Bulcsu (FIM CCR Director) in the presence of Messrs Daniel Carrera (Dorna), Paul Duparc, Charles Hennekam and Scott Smart (FIM) in a meeting held in Madrid (ESP) on 01 December, made the following changes to the 2017 MOTUL FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships Regulations:

Sporting Regulations

  1. Slight changes have been carried out to the Sporting rules concerning mainly the meanings of the signalling flags or riders behaviours. In each class, 2 wild cards will be allocated for each event and the deadline for presenting the wild card candidature will be extended to 90 days for overseas event.
     
  2. The formation of the grid for Race 2 will now be decided following race results from Saturday. Superpole results will continue to define starting positions for riders who finished in 10th position or lower, however the front of the grid will now be determined on Race One results.
    The front three rows will be affected in the following way:
    • Top three riders move back to row three and see 1st and 3rd reverse their positions.
    • Riders who finished in 4th, 5th and 6th will be promoted to the front row.
    • Riders who finished in 7th, 8th and 9th will start from the second row.
       
  3. A new and updated time schedule across the weekend is to be defined which means we will see changes to how the WorldSBK race weekend is played out, especially with the introduction of the World Supersport 300 series.
     
  4. There is to be ban of the use of scooters in order to aid track familiarization in the build up to or over a race weekend. Walking or the use of push bikes will be permitted, as seen in MotoGP™.
     
  5. On a similar note there is set to be a prevention of machines at the back of the grid for race formation which is again mirroring the regulations of MotoGP™.
     
  6. FIM Supersport World Championship (600 class) will welcome an introduction of flag to flag races, meaning we will see Supersport motorcycles change tyres during a race when conditions change.

It is reminded that as from 2017, the FIM Superstock 1000cc Cup becomes a European Championship under the name of European Superstock 1000 Championship.

Technical Regulations

Various technical changes are to be implemented into WorldSBK for 2017, and despite some only being minor it will see a large impact on the series.

FIM Superbike World Championship: Airbox regulations have been updated meaning sensors will now be allowed to change. Additionally parts of the Variable intake tract system may now be replaced for added strength, whilst retaining exactly the same functionality as the respective street bike.

FIM Supersport World Championship: In terms of technical modifications for this class updates have been brought in to allow modifications to the wheel axles, related parts and front fender mounts. These changes will mean we will see easier, safer and faster wheel changes.

Medical Updates

As of the upcoming season, it will now be the athlete's duty to immediately inform the medical director if there are changes in his/her health condition which may interfere with the ability to ride.

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Surgery Season: Riders In Every Class Go Under The Knife In Preparation For 2017

If ever there was a time to be disabused of any notions of the glamorous life a professional motorcycle racer leads, the weeks immediately following the end of the racing season, after testing has been completed, is surely it. Riders around the world head into operating theaters and physical rehabilitation facilities to have more permanent fixes applied to the temporary patch up jobs done to allow them to keep racing during the season. 

There has been a long list of riders having surgery or treatment of one sort or another over the past week or so. On the Friday after the Valencia test, Cal Crutchlow went in for surgery on a finger in his right hand, to have the joint cleaned up and treated for arthritis. Arthritis in joints is a very common complaint in riders young and old, as the joints take a beating in crashes. It is the reason why many riders prefer to head off to warmer climes for the winter, as the cold causes pain in their joints.

Arm pump is another common issue which riders get fixed over the winter. Two of the WorldSBK championship's protagonists had their issues addressed this week, after the last test of the year down in Jerez. Double world champion Jonathan Rea underwent surgery to alleviate the symptoms of arm pump on his right arm. The Kawasaki rider's arm pump had flared up at Jerez, during the two race simulations he put in last Thursday. Chaz Davies had both arms done, after issues with arm pump throughout the season.

Ligament damage is another serious problem when crashing. Nicky Hayden had surgery on his right knee just over a week ago, having the MCL ligament reattached by doctors in San Diego. On Wednesday, Marco Melandri also had surgery on his right knee, to fix a torn meniscus. Unusually for a motorcycle racer, Melandri did not pick up his injury on the track, but rather at a charity soccer match, where he twisted his knee awkwardly.

Bradley Smith is also still recovering from badly damaging his knee, the Englishman having had a bike run over his leg during practice at a World Endurance event at Oschersleben. The damage means that Smith is basically riding without an ACL ligament, a common affliction among motocross riders especially. The recovery period after surgery to repair the ACL is too long (up to six months before full fitness) to get the problem dealt with during their careers, so riders tend to wait until after retirement for surgery.

Smith has been working on his physical rehabilitation, however, and on Thursday, he tweeted that he had made major progress, speaking of a "game changer". Smith spent time at the Red Bull Diagnostic Training Center in Thalgau, near Salzburg in Austria. Having joined KTM, Smith automatically switched energy drink sponsors to become part of Red Bull. Red Bull has an extensive support program for the athletes they sponsor, part of which includes the DTC in Thalgau. It is the second time Smith has received support from his energy drink sponsors for the injury, the Monster Energy athlete liaison having done a great deal for him when he injured his leg in Germany, including having medical documents translated for surgery.

Another common reason for hospital visits by motorcycle racers is to have some of the metalwork inserted during the season removed. Riders will often have titanium plates inserted to fix broken bones if they crash mid-season, so that they can return to racing as quickly as possible. The winter is the perfect time to have such plates removed, as the screws which hold the plates in place leave holes in the bones when removed, and the winter break is sufficient time for the bones to regrow and fill the holes. This week, it was the turn of Moto3 riders Aron Canet and John McPhee to have metalwork removed. Both had suffered injuries during the season and had plates fitted, and both went under the surgeon's knife to have them removed.

Finally, Jorge Navarro also had surgery this week, but not to have anything removed. The Spaniard had suffered problems with his shoulder this year, the joint being prone to dislocation. Navarro, who will be racing in Moto2 in 2017, had surgery to fix the ligaments in his left shoulder, ready for the start of the coming year.

The glamorous life of a professional racer will continue after recovery. While the rest of the world spends the months of December and January fattening themselves up over the various holidays around the world, riders are attempting to adhere to an ascetic lifestyle in the midst of plenty. They are preparing for the coming season by following a hard training regime, while adhering to a strict diet to keep their weight down as much as possible. All in the hope of the fleeting thrill of glory next year, and to improve their chances of victory.

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Subscriber Feature: Why Jorge Lorenzo Had A Tough Time With Tires In 2016

What went wrong for Jorge Lorenzo in 2016? A lot of things. The Spaniard was quickest during the Sepang test, a full second faster than his teammate. He started the season strongly, with a win at Qatar, then a strong run of form from Austin to Mugello, finishing either first or second every race except in Argentina, where he crashed. That crash perhaps foreshadowed what was to come: unable to match the pace of the leaders, he pushed hard to manage the gap. He went slightly off line and hit a damp patch on the track, and lost the front.

The cause of that problem – Michelin's tires in poor grip conditions – would be a recurring pattern. At Barcelona, after the track layout was changed to make it safer in response to the tragic death of Luis Salom, Lorenzo was once again struggling, and was wiped out by an impatient Andrea Iannone. At Assen, the Sachsenring, Brno and Silverstone, Lorenzo had an awful time in the wet. At Phillip Island, it was the same, this time cold temperatures in the race causing problems after so much of practice was washed out by the rain.

Why was Lorenzo struggling? Was it really just a question of the Spaniard being afraid of the rain? Or is there something more to it than that? And how will Lorenzo cope with this on the Ducati next year?

The interface between bike and track

The answer to all of these questions revolve around tires, and grip. Jorge Lorenzo's riding style requires several key things: a bike that is stable in corners, a front tire with good, predictable grip, and a rear tire with a lot of edge grip. Because his riding style relies so heavily on corner speed, his bike is set up long and more softly sprung than other riders, making it more difficult to generate heat into the tires.

The extreme lean angles Lorenzo achieves cause problems in both the wet and the dry. When Cal Crutchlow was still riding a Yamaha M1 with the Tech 3 team, and could see Lorenzo's data for comparison, he told us repeatedly "the only time I get the same lean angle as Jorge is just before I crash."

This is part of a semi-regular series of insights into the world of motorcycle racing, exclusive for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The series will include background information, in-depth analysis, and opinion pieces. Though the vast majority of content on MotoMatters.com is to remain free to read, most notably the daily round ups at each MotoGP event, a select amount of content will be made available solely to those who have taken out a subscription.

The aim is to increase the number of site supporters and be able to move away from online advertising altogether, a model which is broken, as the rise of ad blockers demonstrates. Adding exclusive subscriber content adds value for site supporters, in addition to the desktop-sized versions of Scott Jones' photos for the site. The hope is that this will persuade more of our regular readers to support MotoMatters.com financially, and help us grow and improve the site. 

If you would like to become a site supporter, you can take out a subscription here. If you are already a subscriber, you can read the full feature explaining why Jorge Lorenzo is struggling, including an extensive explanation from his team manager at Yamaha, Wilco Zeelenberg, here.

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2017 WorldSBK Calendar Released: Portimao Returns, Jerez, Sepang Disappear

The provisional 2017 World Superbike calendar has been released, but unlike the MotoGP calendar, which is unchanged, there are a couple of minor differences to the schedule. The World Superbike class will contest 13 rounds, just as they did in 2016, spread across three continents. Sepang and Jerez have been dropped, and Portimao makes a comeback.

The WorldSBK calendar also sees a new class added to the series. As announced previously, the new WorldSSP300 class has been added as a cheap entry series, where young riders will take each other on aboard a wide range of the cheap, one and two cylinder sports bikes which manufacturers are currently building. Homologated race bikes will include the Yamaha YZF-R3, the Kawasaki Ninja 300, the KTM RC390, and the Honda CBR500R.

The season kicks off as always at Phillip Island, on 26th February, a week after the final preseason test, and ten days after the MotoGP test which is scheduled to be held there. From there, the WorldSBK grid heads to Thailand, to the Chang International Circuit, before heading back to Europe.

The races in Europe follow their usual schedule: Aragon, Assen, Imola, Donington Park, Misano, before the World Superbike riders head across the Atlantic to Laguna Seca, for the last race before the summer break. That break is fortunately much shorter then last year, with a month between Laguna Seca and the next round at the Lausitzring in Germany.

But the WorldSBK riders face a wait of another month before the tenth round of the series, which sees World Superbikes make a return to the Portimao circuit in Portugal. From there, they travel north to France, and Magny-Cours, before the final two rounds. The last round is as always in Qatar – a privilege it pays a hefty fee for. The Qatar round will also be held on a Saturday, rather than the Sunday, to fit in better with local customs.

The penultimate round of WorldSBK is still listed as TBA. Though there is no confirmation, there are persistent rumors that the series is seriously considering a return to Brno. The fact that both the WorldSSP300 series and the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup are scheduled to race at that round does suggests it will be held somewhere in Europe. Whether the weather is clement enough for racing in Brno in mid-October is open to question.

Dorna have been careful to schedule the WorldSBK series so it does not clash with any MotoGP rounds. The only same day schedule is with the twelfth, TBA round, but as that would clash with the Japanese round in Motegi, which takes place early in the day, it should not present any real problems.

A bigger problem is that in avoiding clashes with MotoGP, WorldSBK finds itself up against a more direct competitor in BSB British Superbikes series. The two series are scheduled on seven of the same weekends: Aragon WorldSBK faces Donington BSB, Assen faces Oulton Park, Misano is up against Knockhill, Lausitzring against Cadwell Park, Portimao against Oulton Park and Magny-Cours against Assen. For the most part, the different time schedules of the two series should mean the races of the two series are not on at the same time. There are also seven clashes with Formula One, but again, the different time schedules should avoid direct race clashes.

Below is the provisional schedule:

Date Country Circuit WorldSBK WorldSSP WorldSSP300 STK1000
24-26 February Australia Phillip Island X X    
10-12 March Thailand Chang International X X    
31 March-2 April Spain Aragon X X X X
28-30 April The Netherlands Assen X X X X
12-14 May Italy Imola X X X X
26-28 May Great Britain Donington Park X X X X
16-18 June Italy Misano X X X X
7-9 July USA* Laguna Seca X      
18-20 August Germany Lausitzring X X X X
15-17 September Portugal Portimao X X X X
29 Sep-1 October France Magny-Cours X X X X
13-15 October TBA TBA     X X
2-4 November Qatar** Losail X X    
*Subject to contract
**(SC) Schedule change - Round held Thursday – Saturday

 

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Valencia Moto2 & Moto3 Test - Rain Stops Play As Bagnaia, Antonelli Fastest

Rain has been a factor at both the Moto2 test at Valencia and the World Superbike test in Jerez on Tuesday. In Jerez, the track dried up as the day went on, while at Valencia, the weather got worse as the day went on. It started cold and wet, and that was enough to persuade most teams to pack up and go home.

A few riders did ride on Tuesday, however. The Moto2 rookies dominated the timesheets, as riders who had the most to learn in the wet. Pecco Bagnaia was the fastest Moto2 rider in the wet, ending just ahead of Miguel Oliveira on the KTM. Fabio Quartararo took third spot on the Pons Kalex, while Remy Gardner was fourth fastest on the Tech 3 bike.

Of the Moto3 riders, it was Niccolo Antonelli who ended the second day quickest. The Italian, who has made the switch to the KTM Red Bull Ajo team, was a couple of tenths quicker than Fabio Di Giannantonio, while Bo Bendsneyder was third fastest, half a second behind his new teammate. 

For a full list of times, see the screen grab on the GPOne.com website.

The Valencia test was the last of the preseason for Moto2 and Moto3. They now head home for a well-earned rest to recover from the stresses of 2016. They take to the track again in February of 2017.

Below are press releases from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the Valencia test:


Brad Binder undergoes successful surgery on left arm injury

Red Bull KTM Ajo rider operated on in Barcelona to treat fracture of left radius, suffered in a crash yesterday at the Valencia circuit.

11/22/2016 - Barcelona, Spain

Current Moto3 World Champion Brad Binder underwent surgery on his left arm this morning at the Hospital Universitari Dexeus -Barcelona-. Dr. Xavier Mir and his team operated on the South African’s fracture-dislocation to his the left forearm, suffered yesterday afternoon in preseason testing at the Valencia circuit.

The crash occurred at around 3pm, when he suffered a highside at Turn 9 and experienced the misfortune of his bike falling onto his arm.

Dr. Xavier Mir, surgeon:

"Brad Binder suffered a fracture-dislocation of the left forearm known as a 'Galeazzi Fracture,' which consists of a fracture of the radius and a dislocation of the ulna at the wrist. In this case the radius was very displaced so we had to put it back in place, fixing it with a plate and seven screws. This movement caused the ulna to put itself in place. He has a small lesion of the interosseous membrane and this, without causing any problem, will delay somewhat the recovery of the rotation of his arm by about three weeks. In principle, we believe that in four or five weeks it will be cured."

The injury prevented the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider from taking part in the final day of Moto2 testing at the Spanish track. Binder will now have up to two months in which to recover, taking advantage of the winter break. It is expected that the he may be fully recovered in four to five weeks.


MOTO2: BAGNAIA IS THE FASTEST ROOKIE AT VALENCIA TEST

The young talent of the Sky Racing Team VR46 closes the two-day of testing in third place, best rookie. Good job also for Manzi, sixth in wet and 14th overall.

Valencia (Spain), November 22nd, 2016 - Francesco Bagnaia closes the two days of testing at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia with the third lap time, best rookie and the fastest rider in wet conditions. Positive step forward for Stefano Manzi, 14th in the combined standings and sixth under the rain.

After its debut last week in Jerez de la Frontera, it continues the approach to the new category for the two young Italian riders of the Sky Racing Team VR46. Pecco, 90 laps, signs a best lap time of 1.36.024 (dry) which means the Top3 with just a second gap to Nakagami (1.34.761 ed). For the first time on the track in wet conditions, Bagnaia marks an excellent 1.48.173, best time of the day. Positive feelings also for Manzi, who continues the set up of his Kalex. Stefano, with 102 laps, in the rain scored a good 1.50.313 (6th) and closes in the 14th place overall (1.37.326).

Pablo Nieto

I'm really pleased with what I have seen on track. The new Moto2 team started this adventure on the right foot. Yesterday, we continued our approach to the new bike and today we were able to test in wet conditions. Pecco was fast in both situations and closes this second test not far away from the top guys. Stefano yesterday struggled a little bit more, but he has already made an important step forward compared to Jerez and, under the rain, he was able to ride as he wanted. We close the 2016 in the best way: we expect a lot of work, but we are confident for the next season.

Francesco Bagnaia

Two positive days of testing. In dry conditions we worked hard to close the gap with the top guys and we made a step forward. We were able to ride under the rain proving to be competitive in both conditions. In the wet I immediately had a good feeling and this is a great start if we think to 2017. I'm very satisfied and I can enjoy my holidays.

Stefano Manzi

After the Jerez test I could not wait to get back on track to continue the development of the new bike. Compared to the last week, in dry conditions I have made an important step and I'm closer to the top guys. The weather gave us the opportunity to test in the wet: I was immediately fast and I was able to push as I wanted.


Bastianini fastest at Valencia test

Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 conclude day of testing at Cheste, where Enea Bastianini and Aron Canet both take a step forward with the setup of their Honda bikes.

Four days after acquainting themselves with their Honda bikes at the Circuito de Jerez, the Estrella Galicia 0,0 riders continued working with their 2017 machinery in a day of testing in Valencia this week. Enea Bastianini and Aron Canet took part in their second and final post-season test of 2016, with the aim of going into the winter break in positive fashion.

Tuesday’s action was hindered by rain, and thus the Estrella Galicia 0,0 pair only went out on track during Monday. With the weather conditions favourable on that day, they were able to work intensely on new setups and on getting maximum performance from their bikes. Bastianini, increasingly familiar with his new Estrella Galicia 0,0 crew, was the fastest rider of the test, with a time of 1:39.762. He completed a total of 81 laps -325 km- which he used to strengthen the foundations of a workplan that will be followed at his next testing outing –when he returns to Valencia on February 8th and 9th.

Just 4 tenths off was Canet (1:40.178), who put in a total of 90 laps of his home circuit -361 km- with his 2017 machinery. The Spaniard is preparing for his sophomore season in the World Championship, following a positive end to his rookie year.

Canet will take advantage of the break to undergo surgery and remove the plate from an operation on a left tibia fracture, whilst Bastianini will do likewise to remove a plate from his right arm.

Enea Bastianini

Estrella Galicia 0,0 rider

1:39.762, 81 laps, 325 Km

"I felt very comfortable with the 2017 Honda and it suits my riding style very well"

"After the test at Jerez, where I had my first contact with Team Estrella Galicia 0,0, at this test we worked a lot with the new bike. We focused on finding a good setup. Although we only went out on track yesterday, we had two days of very effective work because we were fast even with used tyres. Therefore I am very happy with our testing. I felt very comfortable with the 2017 Honda and it suits my riding style very well. I was able to do many laps and this helped me to understand the bike well in all circumstances. Now I will take advantage of the next few weeks to rest up and prepare well for preseason. I will also take advantage of the time off to removed the plate from my right arm."

Aron Canet

Estrella Galicia 0,0 rider

1:40.178, 90 laps, 361 Km

"The 2017 Honda is quite competitive"

"Yesterday was a great day of testing in which we were able to ride a lot -90 laps- and complete our work schedule. Today it rained and we decided not to go out on track in order not to take unnecessary risks. We continued to work in the way we established at the Jerez test and we continued to try different setups to observe the behaviour of the front and rear, and the feeling is even better. We rode fast and I felt very comfortable on the bike; I think the 2017 Honda is quite competitive."


Red Bull KTM Ajo finish 2016 work before the winter break

Bo Bendsneyder and Niccolo Antonelli complete two days of testing in Valencia, in which they rode for the first time in the wet.

11/22/2016 - Ricardo Tormo Circuit, Spain

The Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3 lineup for 2017 returned to Valencia this week, for their final two days of testing before the winter break. Bo Bendsneyder and Niccolo Antonelli were able to continue the work with their new KTM begun last week at the Jerez Circuit, and additionally had the opportunity to test for the first time in the wet.

The pair put in more than 80 laps on Monday, as well as 40 in the wet on Tuesday, as they continued looking for the perfect setup for their new chassis and new engine for 2017. Bendsneyder and Antonelli gathered important data that their crew will use over the next two months to analyse and develop the behaviour of the KTM.

Due to the winter testing ban, the Red Bull KTM Ajo riders will not get back on their bikes until next February. Until that time, they will be resting and training on their own.

Aki Ajo - Team Manager

"These testing days in Valencia for the Moto3 team have been very good. It was dry on Monday and wet on Tuesday. I am happy that we have had these different conditions because we are testing the new chassis, the new engine and many other new parts for the bike in all kinds of conditions. This is very useful to get as much information as possible for the winter break. It has also been important for our riders. Bo [Bendsneyder] continues to progress and has shown great potential for the future, and Niccolo [Antonelli] has shown great improvement, taking a step forward and working very well with the team."

#23 Niccolo Antonelli

"We had a very good two days of work here at the Valencia circuit. We have improved our feeling with the KTM with respect to the first day of testing. Day after day, lap after lap, I felt better on the bike and with the team we have found a good path to going faster. I am very happy to go into the break having found such a good feeling on the bike; I will have to work hard this winter, but I am happy with the final result of these first few tests with the team for the 2017 season."

#64 Bo Bendsneyder

"These two days of testing in Valencia have gone well: The first day was dry and the second was wet. This helped us in the end, as we were fast in both sets of conditions, we have had a good pace and we have worked well on our setup. We've tried a lot of things and all the data we've gathered is very good for next season. Now we have a little break, but I'm looking forward to training again in order to face next season well."


Bittersweet test for Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto2 team in Valencia

Miguel Oliveira takes step forward with setup of his KTM, whilst Brad Binder suffers an injury on the opening day.

11/22/2016 - Ricardo Tormo Circuit, Spain

The second and final test of the 2017 preseason before the winter break was a bittersweet one for the new Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto2 project. On one hand, Miguel Oliveira was able to test with the new KTM in all kinds of conditions -yesterday in the dry and today, for the first time, in the wet. On the other, a crash on Monday for Brad Binder caused him a fracture of his left radius, for which he underwent successful surgery in Barcelona today.

Oliveira and Red Bull KTM Ajo gathered a wealth of data from the test in Valencia. Yesterday, the Portuguese improved his feeling and dry setup, accumulating important laps after those put in last week in Jerez. On Tuesday, however, he completed his first 28 laps in the wet, riding cautiously and getting a feel for the KTM in these conditions.

The next test for the 2017 season will take place in February, when the winter ban ends.

Aki Ajo - Team Manager

"These four days of post-season testing have been very important for this new Moto2 project. In Jerez we had two days of very good weather, and in Valencia we had one day with good conditions and one with wet weather, but this has also been good for us. We must test ourselves in all kinds of conditions. The project is still beginning but we are convinced and very happy with what we have improved over recent days. The bad news has been Brad Binder's injury. We don’t like what happened, but it’s something that happens in this sport. Fortunately, under the care of Dr. Mir, he has already been successfully operated on and now Brad has time to recover. I give him encouragement and hope he has a speedy recovery!"

#44 Miguel Oliveira

"These two days of testing have been very positive. On the first day the conditions were more favourable than today and we were able to do a lot of dry laps; I felt very good with the bike -which is improving- and the team have worked very well. We have not been able to test what we had scheduled for today because it rained, but we took advantage of this to ride our first laps in wet conditions. I end the first four days of 2017 preseason testing happy and eager to start again in February."


DI GIANNANTONIO AND MARTIN WRAP UP LAST TEST OF THE YEAR AT VALENCIA

The Team Del Conca Gresini Moto3 completed today two important days of testing at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, which hosted only two weeks ago the last round of the 2016 season. Fabio Di Giannantonio and Jorge Martin continued to work on their Honda NSF250RW machines, taking advantage of dry conditions yesterday, while today’s tests were carried out on the wet.

Fabio Di Giannantonio, who yesterday set a best time of 1’40”313 on the dry, was satisfied in particular with the work done today in wet conditions, in which he managed to reach a great feeling with the front: the 18-year-old rider from Rome was the second fastest on the track with 1’50”693. After the good results obtained in Jerez de la Frontera, on the other side of the garage Jorge Martin continued to build his confidence with the bike and the team: the Spaniard, however, was slowed by two crashes in the first day, and by some technical issues today, putting in only 17 laps.

FABIO DI GIANNANTONIO

“Yesterday morning we started the test using with the same set-up used in the race weekend, then we tried some changes in an attempt to get some improvement. We got a good lap time, then the conditions got worse: it was quite windy and so we preferred not to take risks, waiting to get back on track today. This morning we went immediately out on track in the wet and the feeling was positive, although unfortunately I had a small crash. Later we performed some set-up tests for the wet conditions, also trying new parts that gave positive results: my feeling with the front has increased more and more and at the end of the day I also set the second fastest time, so I’m really satisfied”.

JORGE MARTIN

“This test has been a bit complicated: yesterday I had two crashes that made me lose confidence. Today, given the conditions, we wanted to try a wet set-up, but a technical issue halted our work. However, both in Jerez that here in Valencia I found myself very well with the team and I think we can have a good season together. Now I want to train hard over the winter to be ready to restart the test in February. I’m already looking forward to getting back on track!”.


POSITIVE FIRST TEST FOR PEUGEOT MOTOCYCLES SAXOPRINT WITH NEW RIDERS

The team’s new riders Jakub Kornfeil and Patrik Pulkkinen got a first taste of what they’ll face in next year’s championship during a two-day test at the Valencia circuit.

It was the first opportunity for Peugeot Motocycles SAXOPRINT to welcome all new team members in their garage, starting preparations for the 2017 championship. But all eyes were set on Jakub Kornfeil and Patrik Pulkkinen who will ride the team’s Peugeot Moto3 machine next year.

Weather conditions during these testings’ in Valencia were mixed with dry conditions on Monday which allowed the riders and their crews respectively to get the first sensations. Czech rider Jakub Kornfeil, one of the most experienced riders in the highly competitive Moto3 class, showed his potential form the very first exit to get familiarized quickly with his new environment and also to new machine for him.

On the other side of the garage, young Patrik Pulkkinnen from Finland, made his first contact with World Championship riders on track during the last two day. Pulkinnen, a Red Bull Rookies Cup graduate and obviously overwhelmed about this fact riding at world level now, delivered a solid debut in the team and aboard a new bike with a lot of more horsepower to lap 93 times in total without making any mistakes around the 4 kilometres long tricky circuit.

After this encouraging begin of a new chapter to the team’s still young history, Peugeot Motocycles SAXOPRINT heads into the winter break now to make their homework in order to be well prepared before pre-season testing’s continue in February.

Jakub KORNFEIL, 1´40.985 (65 Laps) / 1´52.644 (31 Laps):

"It was a successful first outing for us together with Peugeot Motocycles SAXOPRINT team. The Peugeot Moto3 is a very nice bike. Yesterday morning, when I went out on the track for the first time I could feel it even if the seat position was completely different to the bike I used this year. For this we must change a little on the bike in this regard for the future. But in general I like the bike already a lot. The bike is small and easy to ride so it’s nice to play with it. For all this I know already from my first outing that I will like this bike. During the first day, we didn’t change so much to the settings but we were improving all the time which is very promising. In the afternoon, we put in a new tyre for the first time and I was able to set a 1´40.9. So, I’m happy for this even though we just made some basic setups and some other small things of course. The target for the first test was to adapt and learn this bike so we didn’t take notice too much about lap times. Also on the second day I felt really good with the bike in rainy conditions. We just did 19 laps and we could see immediately there is so much potential there. I didn’t push to the limit and risk anything, just riding around and try and get a feeling under these conditions. For sure I could have gone much faster but shortly before lunch time the red flag came out, otherwise I could have improved this lap by half of a second easily. So, this gives confidence too because I feel comfortable in the wet and also on a dry track. In general, I feel good with the chassis and we have a lot of grip even Valencia is a track without that much grip. About the team, I must say that I’m already settled well with my crew and all people in this team. They’re all very nice, I like them and I also like their way to work in the garage. These first two days proved out that we’re already a team. I feel very comfortable in this team.“

Patrik PULKKINEN, 1´42.402 (64 Laps) / 1´53.725 (29 Laps):

"I have to say that I’m really impressed to be a World Championship rider now. Again, I want to thank all people in Peugeot Motocycles SAXOPRINT for giving me this awesome chance. A dream becomes true and I got a dream team, so everything is really perfect - not just almost. From the very first moment I felt great in the team when I arrived for our first test together here in Valencia. I liked the bike immediately because it’s so smooth and easy to ride, it doesn’t make any crazy things. I would say, it’s like almost made for me. In my opinion, this test went very well for us. I was improving all the time and I also had the feeling that I could improve even more. Of course, there are still some little things but as soon as I learned all this kind of things, I’m sure that I’ll make progress soon and get more speed. I’m surprised too how it went in the wet today. Much better than I expected because normally I’m not so fast in the rain but with this bike things changed obviously. It’s also in the wet very smooth to ride. Yeah, I like it a lot. I already look forward and can’t wait for our first test next year.”

Florian PRÜSTEL (Team principal):

"Our first test with Jakub and Patrik went well overall despite the weather wasn’t so good during the second day. But we’re pleased to welcome these ambitious riders in our team and to start with both of them our new challenge. Both Jakub and Patrik were impressed by our Peugeot Moto3 machine from the beginning and they felt comfortable with, just after a couple of laps already. They did a really good job with their crews respectively, in the dry as well under today’s rainy conditions. Beyond that, they showed spirit and eagerness to get familiarized quickly to their new environment. We’re happy how this first test for the new season worked out at all. But before we head into the winter break now, we want to thank the entire team for their great job done during the last season and the same we would like to express to our sponsors.“


Valencia Test: 21-22 November 2016

Romano Fenati and Jules Danilo faced, today and yesterday, a second session of test at Valencia circuit: the last before the winter break and the last with the Honda version 2016. During the first day Fenny and Jules found good weather and track conditions, while today, in difficult climate conditions, the two riders could do just few laps. A good balance in the first day where Romano closed the top five with the time of 1'40.171, by doing 72 laps in total. Eleventh laps more for his teammate who worked on the feeling at the front. This morning, with cold temperatures and rain, both riders came back on track just for few laps which have been useful, especially for Romano, who could take the measures even on the wet, condition which normally is not ideal for him.

Romano Fenati: "We had other two positive days as we improved, lap by lap, and this is the sign that the work with the team is proceeding in the right way. Now we will have the winter break, where I will continue to train and prepare in order to be ready for the next tests where we will try the new Honda 2017".

Jules Danilo: "In these two days of test, here in Valencia, we turned both on dry and wet conditions. Yesterday we concentrated on some small modifications on the bike in order to find back the feeling, especially when entering in the corner. On dry conditions we still have some things to improve but, after the winter break, we'll come back working on the new bike. This morning, on the wet, I did few laps but I felt comfortable and I did good lap times".


Moto2 Testing Takes Heavy Toll: Binder Breaks Arm, Navarro Dislocates Shoulder

The Moto2 test at Valencia has taken a heavy toll on some of its participants. The rookies Brad Binder and Jorge Navarro both picked up serious injuries at the test, putting an end to their preseason testing for the winter. 

Binder was the most seriously injured. The reigning Moto3 champion highsided his KTM Moto2 bike at Turn 11, the bike apparently landing on his right arm and fracturing the radius, as well as damaging bones in his wrist. The South African was taken to the Dexeus Institut in Barcelona where he was examined and had a pin inserted in the broken bone. 

Navarro was marginally luckier than Binder. The Spaniard, riding for the Gresini Moto2 team, dislocated his shoulder while braking for Turn 8, and ran off into the gravel. The dislocation was severe enough for Navarro to abandon the test altogether, deciding to skip the second day of the test scheduled for Tuesday.

Navarro's dislocated shoulder is a recurrence of a persistent problem. The Spaniard has therefore elected to have surgery in the hope of providing a long term solution to the problem.

There is a silver lining to the black cloud which hovers over Navarro and Binder. They both picked up their injuries right shortly before the start of the winter testing ban. They will have a little over two months to recover from their injuries before testing starts again. They will have missed very little testing in the intervening period.

Below is the press release from the Gresini Moto2 team:


NAVARRO SUSTAINS DISLOCATED SHOULDER AT THE BEGINNING OF VALENCIA TEST

The tests scheduled for today and tomorrow at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia have unfortunately ended prematurely this morning for the Team Federal Oil Gresini Moto2: Jorge Navarro has in fact been forced to stop due to the dislocation of the left shoulder. The 20-year-old Spanish rider had already planned for next December 1st a shoulder surgery to solve the problem, which had already annoyed him during this season.

The injury will stop Navarro also tomorrow, therefore the preparations of the Team Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 for the 2017 World Championship will only resume next year, after the winter break.

JORGE NAVARRO

“The test was already going very well: we had just made a change to the bike set-up and I was feeling at ease, then under braking at Turn 8 I felt the dislocation of my left shoulder. I ended up in the run-off area, and when I arrived on the gravel it was difficult to keep control of the bike, because I had no strength, and I went down, but without consequences. I have already accused this problem several times during the season because of an old injury, in fact I had already planned a surgery next December 1st. Unfortunately the problem emerged also today and I’m very sorry because I won’t be able to continue the test. Now I look forward to the surgery in order to recover as soon as possible, and resume in the best possible way my adaptation to this category”.

Source: 

The Last Gasp Before Winter - A Testing Bonanza In MotoGP, WorldSBK, Moto2 & Moto3

With just ten days to go until the winter test ban comes in to force, on 1st December, teams in both world championships are busy doing their last tests and collecting as much data as possible to take into the winter break. 

Testing is already happening on Monday, with some of the WorldSBK teams gathering in Jerez. Kawasaki, the SMR Aprilia squad, Althea BMW and Ten Kate (soon to be Red Bull) Honda are at the Jerez circuit, though the wet weather means there is little going on on track. Ten Kate are without Nicky Hayden, who has twisted his knee while practice dirt track. The WorldSBK teams are due to stay for a couple more days, and will hope that the better weather forecast for later in the week arrives sooner rather than later.

Some of the MotoGP teams will also be heading to Jerez to take part in testing from Wednesday. KTM will be there with Bradley Smith, though Yamaha have vetoed Pol Espargaro, who was riding for Tech 3 on a Yamaha factory contract. Suzuki will also be present, though only with Andrea Iannone and test rider Takuya Tsuda. The test teams from Ducati and Honda will also be present, though not the Repsol Honda riders. Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez had been due to test at Jerez this week, but decided against it. The official reason given was that they had gotten through their test program at Valencia.

While Ducati, Suzuki and KTM will be hoping for good weather at Jerez, Yamaha are almost certain of it at Sepang. Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi head to the Malaysian circuit this week for a private test, along with the Tech 3 rookies of Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger. The test at Jerez will be open to the media, but the Sepang test will take place completely behind closed doors, with no media allowed. Enquiries to the circuit revealed that no media would be admitted to the circuit.

With the premier class dispersed across the globe, Moto2 and Moto3 are in Valencia. At the end of the first day of testing for the two classes, Enea Bastianini topped the Moto3 timesheets, five hundredths of a second faster than Bo Bendsneyder, now the leading rider in the KTM Red Bull Ajo team. For the Moto2 class, it was Taka Nakagami who was once again fastest, just a fraction quicker than Xavi Vierge. Best of the Moto2 rookies was Pecco Bagnaia, who was just three tenths off the pace of Nakagami.

Scott Jones Valencia Testing Loveliness - Part 1


There was a lot of interest in the Ducati garage at Valencia. With good reason


Dani Pedrosa was one of the few riders who wasn't wearing neutral leathers. It was very nearly different


The Marc VDS riders got the same chassis Cal Crutchlow has been using all year. It made a huge difference. Jack Miller was a lot quicker


It might be Spain, but it's still cold at Valencia in the morning


Andrea Iannone, Chemical Brother


Dear Yamaha: Please can Maverick keep his test livery all year? Yours, every MotoGP fan on the planet


After both Rins and Iannone went down at Turn 12, impromptu meetings of the Safety Commission broke out in pit lane


S is for Suzuki


The Old Dog has a Young Pup to contend with


Jorge Lorenzo was relaxed and happy at the Valencia test. This should worry everybody not called Jorge Lorenzo


Takuya Tsuda, doing the donkey work for Suzuki


He wasn't fast, but he was happy. Bradley Smith showing that KTM need to work on their anti wheelie


Desmo Dovi


Tough start for Alex Rins. He fell, and injured his T8 and T12 vertebrae


Jonas Folger made a very solid debut on the Tech 3 Yamaha M1


If you'd like to have desktop-sized versions of Scott's fantastic photos, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. If you'd like a print of one of the shots you see on the site, then send Scott an email and he'll be happy to help.

Source: 

Scott Jones' Valencia Season Finale - Part 1


Last time out for Andrea Iannone at Ducati. He wants to go out with a bang


Jorge Lorenzo will be taking over Iannone's bike. The pressure is on to win on it


Special, stunning livery for the Aprilias, in support of an Aids charity


Dani Pedrosa is back, but his collarbone still needs icing


The wings don't always prevent wheelies, thankfully


No reason for concern. Rossi starts from the front row


End of a great working partnership. Aleix Espargaro and Tom O'Kane worked very well together during their time at Suzuki


KTM RC16. A sting in the tail?


Gone by Tuesday


Bradley Smith's helmet - a tribute to all things British. Well, all things London


Marc Marquez' normal operating procedure - front wheel in the air and crossed up


New motorized assistance for Yamaha. Unsure whether it will catch on


Currently yellow and black. On Tuesday, switching to the colors he is riding over


An old master


You want corner speed? Jorge Lorenzo has corner speed


If you'd like to have desktop-sized versions of Scott's fantastic photos, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. If you'd like a print of one of the shots you see on the site, then send Scott an email and he'll be happy to help.

2016 Valencia Saturday Round Up: Making Lorenzo's Departure Bearable

2016 has been a strange year. New tires have made teams have to gamble much more on set up. New electronics have drawn the teeth of Honda and Yamaha, making it easier for Ducati, Suzuki, and to a lesser extent, Aprilia to catch up. The wet and wild weather has made it even more difficult to get set up right, with session after session lost to the rain. A wider range of competitive bikes has upped the level of competition even further. So we enter the final race of the year having already seen nine winners, and with dreams of a tenth.

That seems vanishingly unlikely. The three riders on the front row at Valencia have won ten of the seventeen rounds, with two more winners on the second row, and other two on the third row. At a track like Valencia, with so few passing opportunities, it is hard to see how a rider who hasn't won yet can make their way past the previous winners to claim victory. They will not get any assistance from the weather – the forecast looks steady and constant, not particularly warm, but dry and sunny. The only way to win the Valencia round of MotoGP is the hard way.

And then there's Jorge Lorenzo. The Spaniard has been up and down all season, at the tender mercies of available grip levels and the nature of the tires Michelin have brought to the races. At Valencia, everything has fallen into place. The rear tire Michelin have brought uses the more pliable carcass which was also available at Brno and Misano. The new profile front tire the French tire maker has brought is stronger in the middle of the corner, which plays to Lorenzo's strengths. And boy, is Lorenzo strong at Valencia.

Unstoppable

The timesheets told the tale even before qualifying began. Marc Márquez was fastest in both FP3 and FP4, but that was not necessarily a fair reflection of the standings. In FP3, Lorenzo did not bother pushing for a single fast lap, confident his race pace would get him through to Q2. Instead of coming in for new tires, Lorenzo stayed out for a long twelve-lap run. In FP4, he did another long run, with metronomic consistency. The rest of the field had been warned.

If he was strong in practice, during qualifying, Lorenzo was absolutely indomitable. When he took pole in 2015, Lorenzo called it a perfect lap. On Saturday, the Movistar Yamaha rider posted three laps under his 2015 time, one on each of his three runs. It turns out there is a level above perfect, and Lorenzo showed just what it was at Valencia. "Today, I was inspired," he told the press conference. "Everything I tried worked."

It was visible from the side of the track. Whichever corner I watched Lorenzo from the side of the track, he looked like the Lorenzo of old. Completely in charge of the motorcycle, smooth as butter, fast as lightning. Lorenzo has historically been fast at Valencia, and there are no indications he will be anything but fast on Sunday.

Beware of the Marquez

Can anyone stop him? Aleix Espargaro believed that someone can. "I think Marc is the strongest guy regarding the pace," the Suzuki rider told us. "Stronger than Jorge, but the difference is not huge." Márquez' run in FP3 was formidable, clearly quicker than Lorenzo's, but Lorenzo had the upper hand again in the afternoon. The Repsol Honda rider had also made life difficult for himself, by losing the front in FP4 and damaging his preferred bike. "For some reason this weekend I feel much better with that bike that I crashed than the other bike," he told the press conference. Stacking it in FP4 meant he did not have it in qualifying.

That does not mean he did not give it his all. Márquez pushed a couple of times, and was quick in the first couple of sectors. But the last part of the track is where the Yamaha really shines. In the first three sectors of the track, from the starting line round to Turn 11, Márquez was give up just over a tenth of a second. In the final sector, the run into Turn 12, then the long left of Turn 13, before the tight final corner and the run onto the straight, Márquez was losing over two tenths. That was the part of the track where Lorenzo beat the Hondas last year. The same outcome looks likely in 2016.

Valentino Rossi starts his race from a very different position to last year. In 2015, Rossi had been forced to start from the back of the grid, despite being quick during practice. This year, Rossi starts from the front row, alongside the two rivals he accused of stealing the championship last year. Rossi's pace looks to be a little off the pace of Márquez and Lorenzo, but this is Valentino Rossi. The Italian is always impressive on Friday and Saturday, but it is only on Sunday that he finally unleashes the beast. If Rossi gets away with the front early, he is in with a chance.

Dark horses

If there is one rider who can challenge the front row men on Sunday it is Maverick Viñales. The Spaniard has shown impressive pace on the Suzuki all weekend, and is pretty much on pace with Rossi at least, and maybe even faster. The Suzuki is very strong around Valencia, the tight corners playing to the strengths of the GSX-RR. Both Viñales and teammate Aleix Espargaro have been impressive, though Espargaro managed to crash out as he pushed for a final fast run. Conditions are ideal for the bike: cold weather gives them grip, and the many tight flowing turns mean that Viñales and Espargaro can use the sweet handling nature of the bike to maximum effect.

There are two Ducatis up front too, though neither Andrea Dovizioso nor Andrea Iannone were under any illusions of being competitive. They had managed a fast single lap, but consistent pace was a little harder. Valencia is tough on the Ducati, despite the fact that the bike is much improved this year. The bike is still not turning as well as it should mid corner, an issue at a track like Valencia where the bikes spend do much of their time on their sides.

Andrea Dovizioso learned in qualifying that he will be needing the soft front tire for the race on Sunday. Normally, he explained, you need support from a stiffer tire during qualifying and the race. But the hard front that had appeared to work so well during FP4 did not withstand the comparison with the soft front during qualifying. Braking stability was acceptable, but the grip was so much better. Sometimes it takes an experiment to uncover the truth.

Round rubber throwing it all away

FP4 showed a lot of riders that the hard front was not the right tire. There were seven crashes on Saturday, four of which were during FP4. Of the eight crashes throughout the weekend at Valencia, seven of them had been with the hard front tire. Turn 10, especially, was treacherous, the front letting go almost without warning once you started to push.

Tire choice is going to be key for the race, both front and rear. The hard tires at both ends of the bike have plenty of endurance, but lack the early speed needed to keep up with anyone who fits a soft rear from the start. There are some factories which will still be using the soft, however, and trying to manage their tires in the second half of the race. Thirty laps is a long time around Valencia, and the soft tire will have to be pampered to make it to the finish line.

The other team objects

Jorge Lorenzo looks like fitting the soft front and soft rear, as is his want. Valentino Rossi is yet to decide on the soft or the hard rear, though he too will probably use the soft front. At Honda, the riders have surprised their engineers by managing to run the soft front tire, in preference to the hard. Braking stability is not the issue they had feared, and the softer rear makes the bike easier to manage. There will probably be a good mixture of tires on Sunday afternoon, much of which will depend on the weather. That looks like being stable, but this is 2016, and anything can happen.

Even KTM had reason to celebrate after qualifying. The Austrian manufacturer had made up a lot of ground from the first day to the second, gaining nearly a whole second on the times they had set on Friday. They had made a step with the set up, and used the softer tires to help the bike turn. Mika Kallio was somewhat surprised, expecting to fnd a project that was some way off the pace.

The improvements which the KTM had made were clearly visible from trackside, the bike more stable on corner entry, and not losing quite so much on corner exit. The improvement had come in no small part by ditching the harder rear tire in favor of the soft one. Whether the rear would last for 30 laps was still not sure, but at least Mika Kallio would in among the tail enders, and fighting for points. KTM were obviously pleased, project leader Sebastiann Risse said afterwards. Kallio was greeted like a conquering hero by the KTM staff which thronged the garage for MotoGP.

Will we see winner number 10 on Sunday? Given stable weather, the answer is probably no. But this is 2016, and if there is one thing we have learned it is that anything could happen. Don't bet on anything for Sunday. Reality is likely to intervene, as it has so often this year.


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