Top ten lists are by their very nature subjective; beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. From the moment the season started in Australia until the very end there was a great scrap for the title, with the fight going down to the wire in Qatar. But who was the best rider of 2016? This is the MotoMatters.com top ten riders of the 2016 WorldSBK season.
Reading motorsports websites all over Europe today, you would think it was Doomsday for motorcycle racing, and all forms of motorized sports. Even in as august a publication as The Times (of London, that is), the headlines warned of impending disaster:. "EU insurance rule ‘will destroy British motor sport’". Is the end nigh for motorsport in Britain?
The short answer is "No, but it's complicated". So where did these warnings that the sky is falling come from? On Wednesday, the MCIA (the Motorcycle Industry Association, the body representing the British bike industry), the ACU, and the AMCA (both representing motorcycle racing, on road and off road) issued a joint press release, warning that motorsport in the UK could come to an end due to a ruling by the European Court in Luxembourg.
The ruling stems from a judgment in the case of Vnuk v Triglav, case C-162/13 before the European Court of Justice, and known as the Vnuk judgment. The case involved a Slovenian farm worker, Damijan Vnuk, who was injured when he was knocked off a ladder by a tractor reversing with a trailer. Vnuk was working on a farm at the time, and sued for compensation from the motor vehicle insurance policy of the tractor. The lower Slovenian courts rejected his claims, but the Slovenian Supreme Court referred the case to the ECJ.
The second of our in-depth look at MotoGP rider aids explains how anti-wheelie works – a handy gadget when you’ve got 260 horsepower on tap
Why were winglets such a big deal during the 2016 MotoGP season? Because the anti-wheelie program in Dorna’s unified software is the weakest of all the rider aids, so the downforce created by the wings helped keep down the front wheel during acceleration.
The Grand Prix Commission has made a couple of minor changes to the MotoGP regulations for the 2017 season, and unlike many rule changes, at least one of them will be met with outright joy by most MotoGP fans.
The Superprestigio is supposed to be a bit of fun, a way to release a last burst of energy before the holidays start in earnest. They are not meant to be taken seriously, and the title of Superprestigio winner conveys little or nothing: no prize money, no FIM status, nothing more than a little bit of December glory in the depths of winter.
But of course, these are motorcycle racers we are dealing with here. There is no such thing as "racing for fun". Every opportunity to compete is grasped with both hands, their will to win battling with their fear of losing, pushing them to give their all at whatever they turn their hand to. The late Liverpool manager Bill Shankly summed up every professional athlete's attitude perfectly: "Football is not a matter of life and death... it's much more important than that." For football, substitute racing. Or cycling. Or even a game of Monopoly.
So it was no surprise to see the dejected look on Brad Baker's face after losing the Superfinal to Marc Márquez. It was an echo of the anger Márquez had felt at losing the first edition to Baker, though the Spaniard was a little better at hiding it, raging privately and out of sight of the press. Or most of them, anyway.
With most of the Paddock Pass Podcast crew gathered in Barcelona for the Superprestigio dirt track race, we used the opportunity to record a couple of shows. The first show covers the reason we were all in Barcelona in the first place: the fourth edition of the Barcelona Superprestigio, which featured another clash between MotoGP champion Marc Marquez and former AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National champion Brad Baker. This time, it was Marquez who came out on top, tying the series 2-2, and setting up a sequel for next year.
Marc Marquez has taken revenge at the event he helped to create, winning the 2016 edition of the Superprestigio in dominant style. The 2016 MotoGP champion had dominated the qualifying heats, and chose the inside gate to start from. Though he dropped behind the excellent French Supermoto champion Tom Chareyre off the line, he entered the first corner in good position, with AMA star Brad Baker tight on his tail. The pair quickly slid through to take the lead.
Qualifying for the Superprestigio at Barcelona saw Marc Marquez top the timesheets, both in the Superprestigio class and overall. The Spaniard posted a time 12.054 seconds on the 180 meter track. Former Moto2 champion and current MotoAmerica Yoshimura Suzuki rider Toni Elias was second fastest, just under a tenth of a second slower than Marquez, while Tech 3 rider Xavi Vierge was third quickest.
The final line up for Saturday night's Superprestigio indoor dirt track event, to be held at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, has been announced. As always, the big names at the event are reigning MotoGP champion Marc Marquez and former AMA Flat Track champion Brad Baker, with the event likely to see another run off in the Superfinal between the two.
Aki Ajo is one of the most significant figures in the Grand Prix paddock. The Finnish manager has seen a long string of talent pass through his team on their way to greater success. Ajo explained how he goes about identifying talent in the first part of this two-part interview. In the second part, he gives more insight into the process of building a winning team.
Ajo talks about how he nearly ended up working with Romano Fenati in 2017, and some of the factors which prevented it. Ajo also explains why he believes Moto2 is the toughest category in motorcycle racing, and the daunting challenge stepping up to the intermediate category can be. The Finnish team manager also dives more deeply into the importance of a team, and surrounding a rider with the right pieces to help him get the best out of himself.
Q: You don't have a background in psychology, this is all just learning from experience?
AA: No, no, this is racing. My life is racing. Always. It's basically just the school of life. I was riding myself, and at that moment, it was already a big school. When you are riding yourself, you have big pressure, I had to find money, I was the tuning guy, I was everything. This was the big school for me. Maybe I was not good in anything, but touching on everything a little bit and learning a lot.
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, home to the Barcelona round of MotoGP, has agreed a new track layout to be used for MotoGP from now on. After consultation with the FIM and the FIA, the circuit has settled upon a slightly revised version of the F1 layout used during the race at Barcelona this year, with the chicane at the (new) Turn 14 and Turn 15 having been moved several meters closer to the (new) Turn 13, providing more run off at the chicane.
Aki Ajo is one of the most significant figures in the Grand Prix paddock. The Finnish manager has seen a long string of talent pass through his team on their way to greater success. The list of champions and great riders he has produced is almost endless: Marc Marquez, Johann Zarco, Jack Miller, Sandro Cortese, Luis Salom, Danny Kent to name just a few.
To find out how he does it, I sat down with Aki Ajo at Valencia and spoke for nearly half an hour. The results of this interview were fascinating, and offer a great insight into the how to get the best out of a rider, to help them achieve success. In the first part of this interview, he shares his philosophy of racing and team management, of motivation, and what keeps him going. He also talks about the difference it makes working with a rider the second time around, and why he is happy with his current crop of riders in Moto2 and Moto3.
Q: You always seem to find the right riders?
Aki Ajo: Not always, but sometimes, yes!
Q: Often, though. And sometimes you will take a rider and give them what they need to succeed. What is it you are looking for in a rider? What is talent?
We have had a lot of people asking us over the past few weeks whether we will be producing our usual 2017 MotoMatters.com Motorcycle Racing Calendar. The good news is that the answer is yes, we will. The bad news is that we are running badly behind in production, meaning it will not be ready in time for Christmas.
The current plan is for printing to start in the next few days, but that will probably mean it will not be ready to be shipped in time for Christmas. We do hope to be able to ship in time for the start of the new year. As soon as we have a production date, we shall put the calendar on sale on the website.
"If it wasn't for the Dutch TT race, I would have to close my business." Those were the words of the taxi driver who took me from Assen train station to the circuit, for a presentation on the plans for major upgrades to their spectator facilities over the next three years and beyond.
It offered an insight into the importance of the MotoGP race at Assen, and by extension, the importance of circuits and MotoGP events around the world. My taxi driver explained that over the week surrounding the Assen race, he was kept so busy that the money he made during that period was the difference between ending the year with a profit and the ability to invest in the future of the business, or just about breaking even.
Chatting to an official of the provincial government, who had grown up in the city and worked in bars there during his college years, he confirmed that experience. The bars back then were so busy during the race weekend that it was the difference between survival and failure. The same is true for many businesses and hotels around the region, as anyone who has ever tried to book accommodation in the weeks before the race can attest.
The Barcelona Superprestigio has proven to be a popular staple of the winter break. The indoor flat track race, which takes place at the Palau Sant Jordi, is returning for its fourth edition on 17th December. Once again, the stars of the MotoGP, World Superbikes and Endurance will take on the cream of dirt track and off-road disciplines. Former winners Marc Marquez and Brad Baker face off for the fourth time.