It was a wasted day at the Sachsenring. The day started cold but with a dry track, then, ten minutes into MotoGP FP1, a fine mist of rain started to fall, making already tricky conditions positively terrifying.
A few journalists walked through the Sachsenring paddock up towards the end of pit lane, where the fences give you great views of Turn 1 and Turn 11.
Just as we arrived, Scott Redding’s battered Pramac Ducati returned to the paddock in the back of a recovery trailer. When we turned around to watch the bikes coming through Turn 11 again, Jorge Lorenzo slid through the gravel towards us, his foot caught up in his bike for a while.
While we were watching Lorenzo hit the gravel, we heard another bike scrape across asphalt and into the gravel. It was Stefan Bradl’s Aprilia, the German having lost the front at Turn 11, just as Lorenzo had.
The rain continued, never really heavy enough to soak the track properly, only lifting towards the end. A few riders went out on wet tires to check their repaired bikes, coming straight back in again.
The morning session was lost to the weather conditions. The afternoon session was a little better – at least it was dry – but the track temperatures meant that the tires never really got to the operating range they were designed for.
There are good times to talk to MotoGP riders and there are bad times. Among the bad times are when sessions of other classes are on, or when other major sporting events intervene. Valentino Rossi’s press debrief on Saturday afternoon is one example.
When it clashes with the start of the Red Bull Rookies Cup race, Rossi can be distracted as he watches the opening laps on TV screens in the Yamaha hospitality.
Though Rossi is the consummate professional, always giving relevant answers to the questions we put to him, sometimes we have to wait, as fourteen Red Bull Rookies all try to fit into a corner where only three will go.
On Thursday, the press debriefs of the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders were up against the last twenty minutes of the Tour de France stage, which finished near the top of the Mont Ventoux (not actually at the summit: strong winds meant the finish was moved 6km from the top).
Cycling is something which MotoGP riders tend to become passionate about, as they do it so much to maintain fitness. And the finish to this particular stage became so intense that both Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro remained glued to the screen, as did most of the journos who had come to talk to them, including myself.
We talked a lot with the Tech 3 boys, but none of it was about MotoGP.
Well, not quite none. As I prepared to rush from Tech 3’s hospitality through the tunnel under the track to a press conference I was already late for, I quickly asked about the asymmetric front tires Michelin have brought to the Sachsenring.
“We’ll see tomorrow,” was Bradley Smith’s answer, followed by a comment that he was more happy that the French tire manufacturer has brought the extra soft front rain tire, as the soft had still proved too hard at Assen.
If there is such a thing as a Honda track, then the Sachsenring is surely it. Of the nineteen premier class races held at the tight, tortuous circuit, Honda have won twelve.
That includes the last six races in a row: From 2010 through 2012, nobody could touch Dani Pedrosa around the circuit. From 2013 onwards, Marc Márquez has been unbeatable at the track.
What makes the Sachsenring such a Honda track? Maybe it’s the two key braking points at the circuit, going into Turn 1, and at the bottom of the hill for Turn 12.
Maybe it’s the ability to use the Honda horsepower going up the hill out of the final corner, across the line and into Turn 1. Or maybe it’s the tight corners, the Honda always a strong bike in turning.
The Sachsenring circuit is invariably described in disparaging terms – “Mickey Mouse”, “a go-kart track” – but that does not do the track justice. It may not challenge the bikes in terms of horsepower, but it demands an awful lot of the riders.
From the moment they arrive at the end of the short, uphill front straight, brake hard for the sharp right-hander of Turn 1, and pitch it into the corner, the bike barely leaves the edge of the tire until the plunge down the Waterfall after Turn 11.
There is a brief moment of respite between Turns 7 and 8, before heeling the bike over again for another series of lefts going up the hill to the circuit’s crowning glory.
The long-awaited news of Johann Zarco’s MotoGP contract has been announced. The Frenchman is to join Jonas Folger in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team for 2017. Zarco’s contract is for one year, with the team holding an option on the Frenchman for a second year.
MotoGP Silly Season is nearly at an end. With the confirmation that both Jack Miller and Cal Crutchlow will be staying in their seats for 2017, the list of possibly vacant grid slots grew much shorter.
Those that remain empty are growing ever closer to being filled, leaving only three seats open, and one seat still completely free. So, it is time to take a look at the current state of play.
With the announcement that Aleix Espargaro would be joining Aprilia for two years, the last of the factory seats was filled. The factory rides filled up quickly in 2016, starting with Valentino Rossi and Bradley Smith at Qatar, and culminating eight races later at Assen with the signing of Espargaro.
The timing of the Aleix Espargaro/Aprilia announcement was peculiar to say the least. Making a major announcement that a rider had been signed to a factory rider – a signing everyone already knew about – on the Sunday night after one of the most remarkable MotoGP races in recent memory was guaranteed to achieve the absolute minimum of media coverage.
As expected from earlier sales reports, Ducati Motor Holding is posting a banner year for 2015. The Italian motorcycle maker says that it sold 54,800 bikes last year, a 9,683 unit (+22%) increase over the number of bikes sold in 2014.
Helping break the 50,000 units barrier, the Ducati Scrambler line accounted for virtually all of Ducati’s sales growth in 2015, with over 16,000 Scrambler models sold worldwide. As we have reported before, this paints an interesting picture of what is going on behind Borgo Panigale’s walls.
“The record sales of 2015 are the result of our company’s courage and skill,” said Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding.
“Ducati closes 2015 with record volumes and also a substantial growth of 22% over 2014. During the year Ducati not only launched successful new motorcycles, but also a new brand, Ducati Scrambler, which immediately won global acclaim with over 16,000 sales worldwide.”
Roughly two weeks ago, we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over the alleged patent infringement that was occurring between the two brands’ airbag technologies. That report has since spurred a pair of press releases from the two brands on the subject.
First to respond was Alpinestars, which released a statement that clarified that the lawsuit in Italy centered around the material of the airbag. Alpinestars also offered correction to our report, saying instead that that no legal action had occurred in the German market.
Dainese has now released its own statement on the matter, which insists that legal action was indeed taken in the German market – the Court of Munich ultimately granting an injunction on the sale of Tech-Air products in Germany – and Dainese restates that legal action is underway in Italy.
You can read Dainese’s full statement after the jump. We’ll reiterate what we first said when all this started: the outcome of this legal battle will have big consequences in the motorcycle industry. Stay tuned, we doubt this is far from over.