With the holiday season receding into the rear view mirror, that means that we are getting closer to seeing bikes on tracks.
Testing starts this week for both the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks, and before testing, the Movistar Yamaha team will present their 2018 livery later on this week as well.
The action starts on Tuesday in Jerez, where virtually the entire WorldSBK paddock is gathered for a two-day test.
The Andalusian track will see the first real test of the 2018 WorldSBK machines, with the teams all having had the winter break to develop their bikes under the new technical regulations – new rev limits, and better access to cheaper parts.
All eyes will once again be on triple and reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea, the man who dominated at Jerez in November.
In the week in which MotoGP marks ten years since the remarkable Norick Abe tragically died in a traffic accident (an occasion which MotoGP.com is marking by posting videoes of some of Abe’s career highlights on their Facebook page, news comes of extra Japanese presence at the Motegi round of MotoGP.
There will be at least two Japanese riders on the grid for the start of the race on Sunday, 15th October.
With Australian rider Jack Miller out through injury, the Marc VDS Honda team will be fielding Hiroshi Aoyama as a replacement at Motegi.
The choice of Aoyama should come as no real surprise: the former 250cc champion is one of HRC’s official test riders, and still heavily involved in Honda’s MotoGP effort, and especially with the development of the Honda RC213V.
After missing the last four races due to injury, Andrea Iannone is to make a return to the factory Ducati team. Iannone had fractured his T3 vertebra in a practice crash at Misano, and was ruled out of the race.
Since then, Iannone has been forced to miss the MotoGP rounds at Aragon, Motegi, and Phillip Island.
At Aragon, Iannone was replaced by official test rider Michele Pirro, but Pirro was unable to race at the overseas circuits as he had important test work to do for Ducati, getting the Desmosedici GP17 ready for Jorge Lorenzo, who will get his first chance to test the bike at Valencia, after the last race of the season.
After Casey Stoner turned down the opportunity, Hector Barbera was promoted from the Avintia squad to take over Iannone’s bike, while Australian Mike Jones stepped in to replace Barbera at Avintia.
What is the biggest downside of the flyaways? The three back-to-back races are crucial on the way to the end of the championship. This is the time you need to perform, where you can make the difference by pushing that little bit harder.
The downside, of course, is that if you push too far you can lose everything. “Three races in a row is always complicated,” Valentino Rossi told the press conference on Thursday. “You can have a small problem in the first race and pay a lot.”
The first day at Motegi was a concerted attempt to prove Rossi right. The afternoon session turned into a concerted effort by several riders to hurt themselves, sometimes successfully.
Michelin is stepping up preparations for 2016 by scheduling an extra tire test in December. The French tire maker has invited the MotoGP factories to spend two days at Jerez before Christmas, testing new front tires in cold conditions, according to GPOne.com.
Three manufacturers have accepted, Ducati, Honda, and Aprilia preparing to send their test riders to put in some laps on the latest iteration of tires at the Spanish circuit on 21st and 22nd of December.
As the test falls in the middle of the winter test ban period, contracted riders – that is, riders who will be permanent MotoGP entries for 2016 – are forbidden from riding, and only the official test riders can take part.
As the MotoGP season reaches its mid-point, injuries are starting to take their toll. Riders are being forced to miss races, and replacements have to be found.
The latest victim is Stefan Bradl. The German fell heavily during the race at Assen, fracturing the scaphoid in his right hand. Though he immediately drove home to Augsburg for surgery on the broken bone, the time between Assen and the Sachsenring has proven too short for Bradl to be fit for his home GP.
All signs are pointing to the Honda RC213V-S road bike debuting the Thursday ahead of the Catalan GP; and if you believe the rumors, Casey Stoner himself will parade the MotoGP-inspired hyperbike around the Spanish track.
Shown above, with Honda test ride Hiroshi Aoyama at the controls, the Honda RC213V-S has been seen on the road, in its final trim. The bike has also been on display in Thailand this past week, helping fuel its official launch in Spain.
This means that in just a week’s time, we should finally know all the details about the RC213V-s. Expected to cost north of €100,000, the hand-built street bikes will be very special machines, with production likely limited to how quickly Honda can make the motorcycles.
The day after a race is simultaneously the best and the worst time to go testing. The best time, because the track is in great condition, having already seen three days of action. Riders are all fully up to speed, with both the track and with their riding.
It is also the worst time, because riders and teams are exhausted after the intensity of a race weekend, having given their all to try to win at the track. Testing after a race weekend is probably the least worst solution.
The Monday test after Jerez saw this point very well illustrated. With temperatures very similar to race day, the MotoGP teams – all bar the factory Ducati men, who were headed to Mugello for a test there on the 11th and 12th May – found a track in almost identical condition to the race, in which they could test things they didn’t have time to over the weekend, to try to find where they want wrong.
Can you ever have too much motorcycle racing? You can if the amount of racing over one weekend actually exceeds the number of hours in each day.
That was pretty much the case last weekend, when we MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina, World Superbikes – including World Supersport, FIM Superstock 1000, the European Superstock 600 Championship, and the European Junior Cup – at Assen, British Superbikes at Brands Hatch (the very short, very fast Indy circuit, not the longer GP layout), the second round of the inaugural MotoAmerica series at Road Atlanta, and the 24 hour race at Le Mans in France.
Looking beyond motorcycle road racing, there was also the fourth round of the MXGP motocross world championship at Trentino in Italy, and a Formula One race at Bahrain.
Although the constraints of long seasons mean that there will always be clashes, this was a little ridiculous. Racing series are not completely free to set their calendars as they wish – they are tied down by a host of factors such as track availability, the weather, other events organized at the circuits, local government permission and many, many others – this weekend was one of the more spectacular scheduling SNAFUs. Let us hope this can be avoided next year.
For the upcoming weekend, the calendar is much more limited. The FIM Repsol CEV championship – what we used to know as the Spanish championship – has its first race at Portimao in Portugal.
The field is as varied as ever, with riders from all over Europe and Asia, as well as an Australian and an American in Moto3, an even more varied field in Moto2 – including exotica such as the Vyrus, ridden by British youngster Bradley Ray – and Barcelona-based American rider Kenny Noyes defending his title in the Superbike class.
Their Italian counterpart, the CIV championship, also kicks off this weekend with their first races at Misano. Both series will be streamed live, CEV on their Youtube channel, and the CIV via a specialist Italian motorsports channel called Sportube.
Dani Pedrosa’s announcement after the Qatar Grand Prix that he would be withdrawing from racing to seek urgent treatment for arm pump immediately triggered an explosion of speculation over who might replace the Spaniard during his absence.
Fans and pundits offered a barrage of possible names to take Pedrosa’s place: Casey Stoner, Cal Crutchlow, Michael van der Mark, Jack Miller, Nicky Hayden.
Coming as it did just before April Fool’s day, it even triggered a spate of hoax stories: Casey Stoner, Mick Doohan, Alex Marquez, and Fabio Quartararo were all offered in jest.
Hiroshi Aoyama was always going to be the man to replace Pedrosa, however. For a range of reasons, Aoyama is the only reasonable candidate to take the place of Pedrosa in the short term, all the other names being bandied about subject to sponsor conflicts, race conflicts, contractual obligations or just plain unwillingness.
Here’s a rundown of why Aoayama got the call, and the others didn’t.
Dani Pedrosa is to undergo surgery on his right forearm, to treat the arm pump that has plagued him for the past year. The Spaniard is to be treated in Spain, by Dr. Angel Villamor, who has treated many other racers for the same problem.
Surgery is scheduled to take place on Friday morning, with a recovery period of four to six weeks afterwards, meaning that Pedrosa is certain to miss both the Austin and Argentina rounds of MotoGP.
As such, Hiroshi Aoyama will replace Pedrosa for the two upcoming rounds.