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David Emmett

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With the MotoGP paddock assembled at the Motorland Aragon circuit, the press got their first chance to gauge rider reaction to the proposal of a spec ECU which Dorna is looking to introduce into MotoGP, most probably from 2014. The reaction was guardedly positive among the MotoGP regulars, though all five riders questioned in the pre-event press conference raised concerns over safety. Only Jonathan Rea, standing in for Casey Stoner in the Repsol Honda team for probably the last time, dissented, believing that MotoGP should be a pure prototype series.

“If everyone has the same electronics, this will be positive for everyone, more positive for the ones who do not have the best electronics,” Jorge Lorenzo told the press conference. He was the first to voice safety concerns. “I think we have to try it and to see if we still have the same security on the bike. Because now we avoid a lot of crashes, especially highsides, and maybe with the standard electronics the bike is a bit more dangerous. Because now, the bikes are more powerful, we have more than 250 horsepower, so we have to be careful of these things.”

MotoGP has taken its first step towards the formal introduction of a standard ECU. Today, Dorna announced that they have reached agreement with Magneti Marelli to supply an electronics system to MotoGP teams for the next four years, starting from the 2013 season. To support the electronics system, Magneti Marelli will set up a MotoGP R&D center at their base in Bologna, Italy.

The system to be supplied is complete, and highly sophisticated. The system will comprise an ECU, a complete sensor package, data logger and all of the various wires and switches to make the system. The ECU on offer is described as being Magneti Marelli’s “highest technological option”. More importantly, the Italian electronics firm will supply full support for the ECU, both on and off the track, helping teams develop and set up the system. The system will be supplied free of charge to any team that requests it.

The system on offer will be supplied on a voluntary basis for 2013, with the teams free to continue to develop and use their own systems should they so choose. To allow teams to compete with the teams electing to use proprietary systems, the Magneti Marelli system supplied to the teams will be fully functional for the 2013 season. The Magneti Marelli system is the de facto standard in the paddock, with both Yamaha and Ducati already using a very similar system on their factory prototypes.

The provisional MotoGP calendar has taken a little longer than normal to appear. An initial calendar had been expected at Brno in late August, but no calendar was forthcoming at the Czech Grand Prix.

The next rumored date for the calendar to be released was the weekend of the Misano round of MotoGP, but once the paddock assembled at Misano, it became apparent it would emerge a few days later – we where then told by an IRTA representative that the calendar would be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday this week.

On Tuesday, the Austin Statesman newspaper reported that the calendar would be out on Friday, but the excessive enthusiasm of Loris Capirossi saw the former racer and current MotoGP safety advisor leak the 2013 calendar on his Twitter page on Thursday night.

Ducati Corse director and Ducati’s engineering guru Filippo Preziosi was a busy man at Misano. Besides overseeing the race weekend at the circuit and preparing for the test on Monday, Preziosi spent a lot of time talking to a number of journalists. I was one of the lucky few who were offered ten minutes with Preziosi, and so I jumped at the chance.

In the interview, Preziosi covered a number of topics: the Ducati junior team strategy, Ducati’s four riders for 2013, the current and expected developments for next season were all among the subjects discussed. Preziosi also talked about the effect of the spec ECU, which will be introduced for 2014, and gave the impression he was not necessarily opposed to the idea. After the jump is what Preziosi had to say.

After the chaos at the start of Sunday’s MotoGP race at Misano, it was inevitable that the hunt would be opened for someone to pin the blame on. With so much at stake, especially for Dani Pedrosa and the Repsol Honda team, the finger of blame was bound to get pointed at everyone. One person who appears to have come under attack from some quarters is Karel Abraham.

The Cardion AB rider was the original cause of the first start being called off, when his bike stalled on the grid after the starting lights had already been illuminated. This caused Race Direction to immediately step in and show flashing orange lights, in accordance with the FIM rules, but this happens so incredibly rarely that it caught everyone off guard. In the ensuing panic, Dani Pedrosa’s machine had problems with the front wheel, causing the Spaniard to be rolled off the grid, thereby forfeiting the pole position and being forced to start from the back of the grid.

In response to the accusations, Abraham’s team issued a press release today explaining the mechanical problem which caused Abraham to raise his hand, which in turn caused the start to be canceled. They state explicitly that Abraham acted exactly as demanded by the rules, to avoid danger to everyone on the grid.

Cardion AB also made it very clear that they cannot be held responsible for the problems which Pedrosa’s team suffered at the restart, saying explicitly in the statement: “Our team dealt with the situation in full compliance with MotoGP regulations. It is not our fault that the new situation resulted in chaos and the unintentional breach of the applicable regulations by HRC.” The full statement put out by the Cardion AB team is after the jump.

That was a chaotic weekend. Two-and-a-half days lost to rain, then a bizarre series of hold-ups and incidents on the start of the MotoGP grid that ended up eventually going a long way to deciding the championship. Fortunately for the series, the MotoGP race was preceded by two scintillating support races, and then the MotoGP race itself saw two very popular podiums.

To start with the biggest issue, the start and then the restart of the MotoGP race. There was a lot of confusion and head-scratching over what was going on – the riders had never seen the flashing amber lights on the starting panels, for one – but when the dust settled, it looked like everything had been run almost by the numbers, despite the protests from Dani Pedrosa’s camp.

The sequence of events seems to have been this: After the first warm up lap, the riders lined up on the grid ready to go, but after the starting lights had been shown, Karel Abraham had a clutch problem and put his hand up to indicate that his bike was not working. Once that had happened, Race Direction had no option but to call off the start. They ran this by the book: flashing yellow lights were displayed next to the red lights, and yellow flags were waved. There was as short of an interval as possible, before the bikes set off for the second warm-up lap, and race distance was reduced by a single lap.

Finally it stopped raining. The light drizzle that has plagued the Misano circuit since Friday morning petered out around lunchtime, making way for the sun to dry the track out. Though the riders were glad to see the back of the rain, it left them with an awful lot of work to do. The set up work from the three lost sessions all had to be squeezed into the single hour of qualifying, leaving space for the mad fifteen minute scramble for grid positions. “It was a pretty tight session,” Dani Pedrosa said after qualifying. “We had to test tires, set up, and get a feeling for the bike in just 60 minutes.”

The main protagonist in Friday’s action was the weather. Like a hormonal teenage girl, the rain simply could not make up its mind whether it was going to fall properly or not, light drizzle blowing in for ten minutes before blowing out again five minutes later.

Hormonal teenage boys, it should be noted, know exactly what they want, and apart from the obvious, what they want is the opposite of whatever they have just been told. The weather left the track in that awful half-and-half condition, too cold and damp for slicks, too dry for wets, and the track conditions left the MotoGP men mostly sitting in the pits.

Dani Pedrosa explained it best. “Too wet, so you cannot push, so the tire cools down immediately after you go out, and in or two laps you have to stop, because there is no temperature in the tire. And with the wets, it’s completely the opposite, the tire is immediately out of the working range, and one or two laps and it is gone.” Even in the short period you could go out, there was nothing to be learned, Pedrosa said. “If the tire has too much temperature or too little temperature, the bike feels completely different. There’s no meaning in going out.”

With the available seats at the teams with factory prototypes all now full with the exception of the final satellite Honda – most likely a toss-up between Scott Redding and Alvaro Bautista at Gresini Honda, though rumors persist of Marc VDS Racing taking the Honda RC213V from Gresini and fielding Redding in their own team – attention has now turned to the CRT grid, and the available seats being filled there.

At Misano, two teams announced their plans for 2013. On Thursday, the NGM Forward squad announced they had persuaded Colin Edwards to stay for another season, meaning that the Texan will remain in MotoGP for another year. The team is to finish the 2012 season on the Suter BMW, before making a decision on which bike to use for 2013. The team had been considering a switch to the Aprilia ART machine, but promises of an expanded testing program and more development have kept Forward on board for the rest of the season.

The Cardion AB team will be using the Aprilia ART, however. Today, the team officially confirmed that they would not be continuing with Ducati and would be switching to an Aprilia ART machine. The team will work in partnership with Aprilia and the Aspar team to help develop the Aprilia, in preparation for the new rules in 2014, which will see a rev limit and spec ECU imposed. Karel Abraham will remain the rider for the team.

Kevin Schwantz has issued another statement in response to the press releases put out by both the Circuit of the Americas and Dorna, concerning his legal proceedings over the case. In the press release, Schwantz lays the blame for the situation at the feet of the Circuit of the Americas, and claims they attempted to obtain the contract to organize the MotoGP race in Texas by forcing him out of the deal with Dorna. The full statement issued by Kevin Schwantz is after the jump.

The return to Misano was always going to be an emotional affair, the first time MotoGP has returned to Marco Simoncelli’s home circuit – now renamed in his honor – since the Italian fan favorite was killed in a tragic accident at Sepang last October. Though Simoncelli is being remembered in many different ways during the weekend – nearly all of the riders in all three classes joined for a lap of the track by bicycle this evening – the remembrance has been cheerful rather than mawkish, a celebration of his life rather than mourning at his death.

Fans, riders, mechanics, photographers, journalists, many have made the pilgrimage to Coriano, Simoncelli’s home town just a few short miles from the track, paid their respects and headed to the circuit feeling better for the experience. Simoncelli’s ghost may haunt the paddock at Misano, but happily, he does so in the guise of Casper rather than Banquo.

There is more than enough to keep the minds of those present engaged. Uppermost in most people’s thoughts is Ben Spies’ decision to go to Ducati to race in the Ducati junior team that is to be run by Pramac. Both of the 2013 factory Ducati riders welcomed the signing of both Spies and Andrea Iannone, with Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden saying it was a good decision by Ducati.

Both Spies and Iannone had proven their speed, and Spies’ experience at the factory Yamaha team would be very valuable to Ducati in helping to develop the bike. There was surprise at Spies’ decision – “I thought he would go to World Superbikes” Dovizioso told reporters – and both men were interested to see how he would perform on the Ducati.