Archive - 2011
Yamaha have suffered a costly blow to their MotoGP program. Today, the factory Yamaha team announced that the three-year deal with Malaysian oil giant Petronas to sponsor Yamaha's MotoGP team will not be extended, and will terminate at the end of 2011. In a joint press release issued with Petronas, Yamaha stated that after three successful years, the agreement had "reached its natural conclusion."
The announcement is very bad news indeed for Yamaha. The deal was reportedly worth $8 million a year for the Japanese factory, and coming on top of the loss of Fiat as a title sponsor at the end of 2010, Yamaha is currently being forced to fund a much greater part of its MotoGP budget - thought to be between 50 and 70 million euros a year - out of its own pocket, a situation that is not sustainable in the current economic climate. The factory seized the opportunity offered by its 50th anniversary in racing to run in factory colors for 2011, which was very well received, especially when the team ran the red-and-white livery that was such a massive hit with the fans. No such anniversary looms for 2012, and with motorcycle sales still in a downward spiral, and no sign of recovery in the global economy, the cost of racing in MotoGP could be too much to sustain for Yamaha.
Nicky Hayden's preparation for the 2012 season has suffered a setback. The Marlboro Ducati rider crashed while training on an indoor flat track course, breaking his left shoulder blade and fracturing two ribs. The recovery period for the injury could force him to miss the Sepang MotoGP test scheduled for the end of January.
The accident is a second setback for Hayden's preseason testing. The American was forced to miss the Valencia post-race test after fracturing his scaphoid during the first-lap crash at the final race of the 2011 season. In a stroke of bitter irony, Hayden had taken to a motorcycle for the first time since breaking his wrist at Valencia, and crashed riding flat track on a special indoor facility, near his and his parents' home in Owensboro, Kentucky. In a fall Hayden describes as "a freak accident" in the Ducati press release, he fell heavily, breaking his shoulder blade and fracturing two ribs.
The cloud hanging over the future of the Jerez MotoGP has lifted a little. Today, Dorna announced that an agreement had been reached with the Circuito de Jerez to allow the iconic Spanish circuit to host the MotoGP round scheduled for April 29th, 2012, confirming the calendar updates announced earlier this month. The 2012 round will go ahead as scheduled, despite the ongoing financial woes at the circuit.
Beyond the upcoming season, the future of the race is not entirely clear, however. Rumors persist that Jerez will be dropped from the MotoGP calendar from 2013, as new circuits such as Austin in Texas and Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina are added to the calendar. With Aragon, Barcelona and Valencia all confirmed through 2016, having four races in Spain is seen as detracting from MotoGP's stature as a World Championship.
The takeover of Infront by Bridgepoint Capital has cleared the final hurdle. Earlier this week, the European Commission Competition Directorate General announced that there were no objections to having the rights holders to both the MotoGP and World Superbike series being owned by one company, as neither racing series would be constrained by having the same owner.
Although obtaining clearance from the EU was a formality, with few observers expecting the deal to be blocked, it was a necessary step given the size of the two companies involved. Both Bridgepoint Capital and Infront Sports and Media (the parent company of Infront Motor Sports) were large enough to require approval under European Union mergers legislation. That has little to do with the size of either MotoGP or World Superbikes, however: neither Dorna nor Infront Motor Sports represents anything more than a small fraction of the total turnover of their respective parents, Bridgepoint and Infront Sports and Media. The parents, however, were considered worthy of examination.
After many years of success in the World Superbike and World Supersport series, Ten Kate is to take their first steps in the MotoGP paddock. The Dutch race shop has been contracted by Gresini to supply race-prepared Honda CBR1000RR engines for Gresini's CRT machine in MotoGP, along with the fly-by-wire electronics system the Ten Kate team developed together with Cosworth for their World Superbike machine.
According to the Dutch racing website Racesport.nl, Ten Kate Racing Products, the commercial arm of the race team and the Honda dealership owned by Ronald and Gerrit ten Kate, signed a contract with the Gresini team just before Christmas to seal the agreement. Ten Kate will supply complete Honda CBR1000RR engines, tuned and prepared by them, along with a complete electronic system, including the fly-by-wire system used on the WSBK machine. The Ten Kate engine is to be fitted into a custom chassis designed and built by FTR. Both FTR and Gresini were very keen to work with Ten Kate, given their long experience and success in the World Superbike series.
The death of Marco Simoncelli at Sepang earlier this year was utterly tragic, but some good will yet come from the popular Italian's demise. On Thursday, Simoncelli's parents, girlfriend and sister announced that the final documents had been signed to create the foundation set up in Marco Simoncelli's name. The Marco Simoncelli Fondazione has been set up as a non-profit organization, with the aim of helping those in dire need.
Exactly which projects will receive funds gathered through the foundation is yet to be decided, though Paolo Simoncelli, Marco's father, is keen to use the money as effectively as possible. According to GPOne.com, projects could include helping children with special care needs, such as extremely rare diseases, receive treatment and care. Paolo Simoncelli also said his initial impulse was to support large projects, but that such projects were fraught with danger. The foundation could instead support a few much smaller causes, as it is easier to exercise more control over such initiatives and ensure that the money is spent directly on helping those in need.
The Spanish petroleum giant Repsol is one of the mainstays of MotoGP. Repsol has backed Honda's MotoGP team for over 15 years, and the oil company is expanding its interest in the series. After adding backing for Marc Marquez in the Moto2 category last year, Repsol today announced that it will be supporting teams in all three categories of Grand Prix motorcycle racing in 2012.
Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa continue to form the Repsol Honda squad, the team reduced from three to two riders, after Andrea Dovizioso's contract was not renewed. After agonizing over the question of whether to go to MotoGP or stay in Moto2, Marc Marquez has elected to put in another year in Moto2 with the Monlau Competicion squad backed by Repsol. The Monlau team will also be fielding two riders in the new Moto3 class with the backing of Repsol, signing a pair of 16-year-olds to contest the new class on a pair of Honda NSF250R Moto3 machines. Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira returns to the GP paddock after an early and less-than-harmonious split from the Andalucia Banca Civica team, while 2011 CEV 125cc champion Alex Rins makes his debut at the World Championship level with the Repsol-backed Monlau team.
The end of the year is the traditional time to be handing out awards (we at MotoMatters.com will be doling out a few of our own in the next week or so), and this year, MotoMatters.com has been extremely lucky to be on the receiving end of one. In the recent Silverstone Media Awards organized by the Northamptonshire race track, home to both MotoGP and Formula 1, MotoMatters.com was voted Best MotoGP Blogger.
The winners were chosen by popular vote, with over 5,000 fans voting for the awards. MotoMatters.com finds itself in some illustrious company, with the official MotoGP.com being awarded best MotoGP website, Britain's weekly publication Motorcycle News (MCN) being voted best motorsport publication, and Eurosport MotoGP commentator being pronounced best MotoGP-related Tweeter.
With all the debate and discussion over the changes coming to MotoGP for 2012 - 1000cc machines, the appearance of the Claiming Rule Team machines, arguments over exactly what the Aprilia bike is, and the ongoing talks over the imposition of a rev limit and spec ECU for 2013, it is easy to overlook the fact that it is not just the bikes which are changing. All four of MotoGP's so-called Aliens are out of contract at the end of next season, as well as just about every other rider on the MotoGP grid. With the last five years utterly dominated by the Fantastic Four - Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner winning all but four races in 5 season - the key for any factory to securing a MotoGP title has been having at least one Alien on its books.
Casey Stoner Interview: On Riding Fast, Emulating Doohan, Dealing With The Media, And Selective Memory
The switch from Ducati to Honda worked out extraordinarily well for Casey Stoner. The Australian was fast in testing, took victory in his very first race aboard the Honda RC212V at Qatar, and despite a temporary glitch at Jerez, where he was knocked off his bike by Valentino Rossi, the man who had taken his place at Ducati, was leading the championship by the time the MotoGP circus rolled into Assen for the Dutch TT, and would not relinquish it again, going on to secure his second world championship in dominant style, winning 10 races and taking pole 12 times along the way.
We had a chance to interview Stoner at Assen, after he had taken the championship lead from Jorge Lorenzo and just as he appeared to be getting into his stride. During a long and interesting conversation, Stoner covered a lot of ground, discussing subjects as diverse as Bridgestone tires, track memory, options for expanding the grid and the selective memory of race fans. But we started off by trying to winkle Stoner's secret from him, and find out just how the Australian manages to be so fast, right from his very first lap of the track. Here's what he had to say:
MotoGP's rule-making body, the Grand Prix Commission, adopted a number of changes to the MotoGP rules in a meeting on Wednesday. As expected, the testing restrictions were dropped, now to be limited by tire allocation. Other changes adopted include an increase in the minimum weight, the introduction of rear-facing red lights to be carried in wet conditions, a slight tweak to the 107% qualifying minimum time, and explicitly granting authority to impose penalties on event organizers. The GPC also considered the entry list for the 2012 MotoGP season, and accepted 9 CRT entries, along with 1 reserve CRT entry.