Archive - News Item
April 18th, 2014
Big changes look to be coming to MotoGP's spec tire system. Now in the sixth season of having a single official supplier, MotoGP is moving closer to seeing the number and variety of tires drastically expanded. With the contract with Bridgestone due to expire at the end of 2014, there is even a serious chance that a new manufacturer could take over from the Japanese tire firm.
A report in the latest issue of the Spanish magazine Motociclismo (available via the Zinio platform), the magazine is reporting that Dorna is looking to change the way that the single tire supply works. Dorna representative Javier Alonso told Motociclismo that negotiations had been opened with several suppliers, including Michelin, Pirelli and Dunlop, as well as current supplier Bridgestone. Dorna had presented Bridgestone with a list of conditions drawn up by the Safety Commission, the liaison body in which the riders discuss safety issues with representatives of Dorna, hosted by safety officer Loris Capirossi.
Though Alonso does not explicitly name the conditions, he does give Motociclismo some context behind their thinking. The idea is to expand the range of tires available at each race, as it has been all too common in recent history for riders to turn up at a particular track only to find that just one of the two compounds available will work. Though the Bridgestone tires have proven to be excellent in terms of both grip and durability, Alonso said, they had proven to be 'difficult for riders to understand sometimes.' The spec tire has also been blamed for creating problems for Ducati. The current tire forces manufacturers to pursue a particular direction in chassis design, which has favored Yamaha and Honda. The intention is not to force Bridgestone to design tires especially for each manufacturer, as Pirelli does in World Superbikes, but to at least provide a much greater spectrum in terms of carcass stiffness and compounds. Senior Ducati personnel believe that a large part of their understeer could be solved by simply having a very different tire available.
Casey Stoner will not be returning to MotoGP any time soon. In an interview with the Italian magazine Vogue, Stoner said that he wanted to spend more time with his family and experience life outside the paddock.
There has been a constant stream of rumors that Stoner could return to MotoGP almost since the day the Australian hung up his helmet. They have grown in intensity at several points in time, most notably when Honda announced that Stoner would be working for HRC as a test rider in 2013. HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto has made no secret that Honda would welcome the prodigal Australian back with open arms, and credible sources in Spain have reported that much work has been done to make a comeback possible, and to try to persuade Stoner to make a return.
News that Stoner was to attend the Austin round of MotoGP reignited a firestorm of further speculation that he could stage a comeback at some point in the future. That speculation was tempered by the fact that Stoner spent most of the weekend in Seattle, where he watched his friend Ryan Villopoto try to wrap up the 2014 Supercross title. Stoner made it to Austin on Sunday, where he paid a very low-key visit to MotoGP*, catching up with his former teammates.
Suzuki's MotoGP test team took advantage of the presence of the MotoGP paddock at Austin to plan a test directly after the Grand Prix of the Americas. Under the watchful eye of team manager Davide Brivio, the team planned to have test rider Randy De Puniet put in three days of testing at a circuit the team had not yet tested the bike at, in a bid to gather more data ahead of their return to the series in 2015.
Unfortunately for Suzuki, very heavy hail and thunderstorms made testing extremely difficult on Monday, leaving the track very dirty and much slower than it had been for Sunday's race. But testing resumed in earnest on Tuesday, with Randy De Puniet running through testing electronics and another back-to-back test of the two chassis options Suzuki has been working on. De Puniet racked up a total of 56 laps on Tuesday, eventually putting in a lap of 2'06.41. That is roughly on pace with the Open class Honda RCV1000R machines, though De Puniet faced much worse track conditions than the Open class machines due to the aftermath of the weather.
With the MotoGP series due to switch over to standard software for the spec Magneti Marelli ECU in 2016, there comes a point at which it makes no sense for the factories to continue developing their own electronics. There is, after all, little point in spending money on software which will be discarded all the way to the last race of 2015, especially as the factories will need to start work on the shared electronics package for 2016 and beyond.
GPOne.com is reporting that the factories have finally agreed a date for an electronics freeze to commence. From the 2015 Assen round of MotoGP, all development of factory software will be frozen, Ducati, Honda and Yamaha racing the rest of the 2015 season with the software they have developed up until that point. Ducati had initially opposed the software freeze, GPOne.com reports, but finally settled for the Assen date.
The Russian round of World Superbikes, due to be held at Moscow Raceway on 21st September, has been canceled. Citing the political iinstability caused by the situation in Ukraine, Dorna announced that the round would be canceled for this year, though the intention is to continue to run the race next year and for the rest of the contract. The situation surrounding Ukraine and the Crimea has made it impossible for several companies involved in organizing the Russian race to guarantee they can be ready in time for the race in September.
The press release issued by Dorna appears below:
WSBK Russian Round cancellation
Barcelona (Spain), Saturday 12 April 2014 - DWO and YMS Promotion have decided to cancel the WSBK Russian Round which was scheduled to be held at Moscow Raceway on September 21st 2014.
The current political situation affects the capabilities of a number of key partner companies essential to run the event.
Parties regret the decision, but are confident that the strong partnership between DWO and YMS Promotion will prevail.
It is a common intention to continue with the organisation of the WSBK Russian Round in 2015 and for the remainder of the contract period up to 2021.
Bridgestone's decision to bring the 2013-spec medium compound rear tire to the Austin round of MotoGP has met with near universal displeasure among the MotoGP riders. The Japanese tire company was forced to revert to the 2013-spec tire, without the added heat-resistant layer, after a production issue with the 2014 tires meant that they were unable to bring enough of the new spec tires to the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin.
That decision was cause for much disappointment among MotoGP riders. 'I'm not happy to use the old tire,' Valentino Rossi told the press conference. 'I don't like it. I want to use the new one, and what Bridgestone did this weekend, bring the old tire after we worked a lot on the bike to make it use the new tire, this is something that sincerely I don't understand.'
Colin Edwards has announced that he is to retire from motorcycle racing at the end of the 2014 season. The 40-year-old Texan told a shocked press conference that he had decided to hang up his helmet for good, after finding it increasingly harder to be competitive, and struggling to make the family sacrifices with children growing up.
Edwards seemed uncharacteristically at a loss for words as he made his announcement. The Texan has always been outspoken, and never afraid to speak his mind, yet this announcement was hard. 'I don't even know how to say it, I rehearsed it so many times,' Edwards hesitated. '2014 will be my last year racing motorcycles.' It was a tough decision to make, he said. He has been racing in Europe since 1995, and been away from his family an awful lot. With his kids reaching the age where they are becoming much more active, Edwards hinted that it was getting hard to keep missing big moments in their lives.
As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. Though Red Bull owner Dieter Mateschitz has made vague threats to pull out of F1 over the new rules, as quoted in the Kurier story, there are no signs that Red Bull is looking to expand its presence inside MotoGP, beyond expanding the number of riders it backs. Red Bull's strategy continues to be to back individual athletes in motorcycle racing, as fans tend to follow riders rather than teams. However, that Bridgepoint will at some point sell its remaining stake in Dorna is a certainty. The question is, who they will sell it to, and at what price. Private equity firms are always seeking large returns on medium-term investments. Bridgepoint have owned Dorna now for 7 years, and so a sale is likely in the next two or three years. In the meantime, both the MotoGP and World Superbike series must be made as profitable as possible, which means cutting costs and raising revenues. The shift to pay-per-view broadcasting deals is possibly one strand of that strategy. Arguably, if Red Bull were to produce content and stream it free over the internet, it could help to grow the sport enormously, especially outside of the established markets. That is one area where Dorna's twin strategies - striking deals with PPV broadcasters, and expanding its online video offering - collide and conflict. Free, and freely shareable online content will remain a difficult subject for Dorna, unfortunately.
Now that April Fool's Day is over, we will once again focus on trying to ensure that all of the stories on the website are as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed...
Red Bull are poised to make two dramatic announcements over the next two weekends, MotoMatters.com can exclusively reveal. At next weekend's Bahrain F1 race, the Austrian energy drink firm will announce its withdrawal from the premier four-wheeled racing series at the end of 2014. A week later, at the Austin MotoGP round for which it is the title sponsor, Red Bull is to announce that it is to purchase Bridgepoint Capital's remaining stake in MotoGP, and take over the running of the series.
Sources in the private finance industry with knowledge of the situation say that Bridgepoint has been looking to rid itself of its motorcycle racing business for some time. The private equity firm had acquired 71% of Dorna in 2006, at the peak of MotoGP's popularity, reputedly for GBP400 million. Since then, they have seen the value of their investment drop, and have been looking to get their money back from the deal ever since. The sale of a 39% stake in Dorna to the Canadian Pension Plan Investment board was the first step in recouping their investment. That deal was rumored to be worth 400 million euros, or just over 70% of their initial outlay. Sources with knowledge of the situation say that Red Bull is to acquire the remaining 32% of Dorna for around 300 million euros, but with full control over the series.
That was a condition for Dieter Mateschitz, the Austrian billionaire owner of the energy drink giant, to pull his investment from F1 and take over control of world championship motorcycle racing. Mateschitz had been unhappy with the direction F1 had been taking for some time now, and the debacle at the opening race of the year had prompted the Austrian to drop the first hints that he would withdraw from the series entirely. Speaking to the Austrian newspaper Kurier, Mateschitz had said 'The point of F1 is neither to set new records for fuel economy, nor to allow people to have whispered conversations during a race.' He suggested that there were better ways to get a return on investment. 'GP2 partially provides more racing and fighting and almost equal lap times as F1 with a small fraction of the budget.'
But mention of the open wheel support series to F1 was merely subterfuge, MotoMatters.com has exclusively learned. For a sum equivalent to a little more than the annual budget of the Red Bull F1 team, Mateschitz is able to obtain not just a team, but an entire race series. What is more, MotoGP is a better fit for Red Bull's target audience than F1, fans being generally younger and more open to new experiences than the older, more staid F1 audience. Though Red Bull had refrained from sponsoring a team directly, the energy firm had been slowly extending its reach in motorcycle racing, backing more and more riders, as well as three MotoGP rounds.
Bridgestone is to bring its 2013-spec tires for the MotoGP race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Production delays meant that the Japanese tire manufacturer was unable to guarantee a full allocation of the 2014 spec medium rear tires with the heat-resistant treatment being supplied to all of the MotoGP riders. Research and inspection of data from 2013 showed that there would be no problem with the tires without the heat-resistant treatment, and so it was decided to supply everyone with the 2013-spec medium rear tires.
The alternative to this would be having two different specifications of the medium compound available to the riders in Austin. A Bridgestone spokesperson told MotoMatters.com, 'Bridgestone felt this was a better option than having riders end up with non-heat resistant and heat-resistant tyres in the same compound option at a race weekend.' The 2013 tires will only be used at Austin, however, resulting from a production issue. 'This is a one-off situation, the 2014 specification slicks will be offered at all other venues,' the spokesperson said.
The long-running dispute between Kevin Schwantz and the Circuit of the Americas has finally come to an end. Today, the circuit in Austin, Texas and the 1993 500cc World Champion announced that the two sides had reached an amicable settlement, and that Schwantz would act as motorcycle racing ambassador for COTA.
The split between Schwantz and the track emerged after Schwantz accused the then owner of the track, Steve Sexton, of agreeing a deal with Dorna to promote the race behind Schwantz' back, when Schwantz already had a 10-year contract to organize the Texas MotoGP round. Schwantz sued COTA to get the rights back from the circuit, and the circuit countersued for costs and fees. Schwantz had been involved in the circuit from its very inception, having acted as an advisor to Hermann Tilke, the German designer of the track. The Texan had worked tirelessly to bring the race to his native state, and when he fell out with circuit management, it was a blow both to Schwantz and to the circuit and the status of the race.
The Idemistu Honda Team Asia today issued a press release with a clarification on Takaaki Nakagami's disqualification after the Moto2 race at Losail. Nakagami's Kalex was found to be fitted with an illegal air filter during a technical inspection, as Race Director Mike Webb explained to the MotoGP.com website. Webb acknowledged that the error was entirely unintentional, and was a result of misinterpreting the technical rules.
Tady Okada, the former 500GP racer winner who now runs Idemitsu Team Asia, explained in the press release that they had failed to interpret the rules correctly. At the time the team took part in the first test, at the end of 2012, the foam air filter which is part of the HRC race kit was legal. The team fitted this part for testing, and continued to use the part throughout the 2013 season and the first race of 2014. However, for the 2013 season, the use of a standard paper filter was made compulsory, and the use of the foam filter was banned.
Penalties Galore: Takaaki Nakagami Disqualified For Illegal Air Filter, Penalty Points For Cortese And Simeon
Race Direction were busy at Qatar. Penalties were handed out for one incident during Moto2 qualifying practice on Saturday and two incidents during the Moto2 race on Sunday. Sandro Cortese and Xavier Simeon were handed one penalty point a piece, while Takaaki Nakagami was disqualified for using an illegal air filter in his Idemitsu Honda Moto2 machine.
The disqualification of Nakagami was the most far-reaching of the punishments. During the standard technical inspection after the race, Takaaki Nakagami's Kalex Honda was found to be using an illegal air filter. Under Moto2 regulations, only the standard filter supplied with the spec Moto2 engine may be used. Though the error by Nakagami's crew was believed to have been an honest mistake, the rule book is very clear. The Idemitsu Honda team appealed against the penalty, but their appeal was rejected.