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.
Ever since we found out that Yamaha was only going to release Jorge Lorenzo from his contract to test at Valencia after the last race, but not at a private test at Jerez a week later, there has been much speculation as to the cause.
Had growing friction between the factory and Lorenzo led Yamaha to block the test? Was Yamaha afraid of just how competitive Lorenzo would be on the Ducati? Or, as the more conspiratorially inclined would have it, was this the invisible hand of Valentino Rossi at work?
The massed media had to wait until Motegi to find out. In the pre-event press conference, Jorge Lorenzo acknowledged that Yamaha had told him that the Jerez test was off the cards.
“Well, obviously I would like to make the Jerez test, but it is not a thing that depends on myself. For the moment, looks like I will test in Valencia. Looks like for Jerez, Yamaha is not so keen to permit that.” Lorenzo felt disappointed by the decision.
“I think that for the years we’ve spent together, and for the things we’ve won together, I deserve it. But obviously it doesn’t depend on myself and I will respect whatever decision Yamaha will make, because I am a Yamaha rider.”
Due to the large number of journalists asking to speak to Lin Jarvis to get his side of the story, Yamaha convened a press conference to allow the assembled media to ask questions.
In the space of half an hour, the Yamaha Motor Racing boss laid out in clear terms why the decision had been made. It was a masterclass in the underlying truth of MotoGP: this is a business, with millions of dollars involved, and a tangled web of interest beyond just Yamaha.
Yamaha has a duty to its shareholders and its sponsors to hold Lorenzo to the contract they both signed. Helping Lorenzo to try to beat Yamaha on a Ducati would be to fail their sponsors and Yamaha’s corporate interests.
Dani Pedrosa has suffered more bad luck at Motegi. For the second time in his career, he has crashed there and broken a collarbone.
The Repsol Honda rider suffered a huge highside at the end of the afternoon FP2 session, being flung high into the air at Turn 11. The Spaniard immediately got up holding his collarbone, and was taken on the back of a scooter to the medical center. There, he was diagnosed with a fractured right collarbone.
Pedrosa is to fly back immediately to Spain, where he will undergo surgery to fix the collarbone. Officially, the Repsol Honda team have only ruled him out of Sunday’s race at Motegi.
However, it is extremely unlikely that the Spaniard will return before Valencia. Dr Xavier Mir, one of the official doctors for MotoGP, told Spanish reporters he did not expect to see Pedrosa back until the final race of the season.
MotoGP is about to enter the toughest stretch of the season. Three races on three consecutive weekends is tough enough.
But three races separated by three, seven plus hour flights, kicking off with a race in a time zone seven hours ahead of the place most riders live. So riders, mechanics and team staff all start off a triple header struggling with jet lag and facing a grueling schedule.
And they are thrown in the deep end from the very start. Only the MotoGP riders can afford to stay at the Twin Ring circuit near Motegi. Most of the team staff stay in Mito, an hour’s drive from the track, meaning they have to travel for two hours a day.
Up in the hills in the middle of Japan’s main island, and sufficiently far north for temperatures to drop in the fall, Motegi is notorious for poor weather. It is usually cold, often damp, and sometimes ravaged by typhoons.
It is not just challenging on the riders and teams, however. The road circuit which sits half inside, half outside the oval course, giving the Twin Ring its name, is like Le Mans on steroids.
A series of straights of varying lengths, connected by a series of precisely engineered corners, as befits a circuit designed specifically as a test track.
Three days after announcing that they would not be replacing the injured Andrea Iannone, the factory Ducati squad has changed its mind.
On Thursday, the Bologna factory announced that Hector Barbera would be taking Iannone’s place in the factory Ducati team, while Barbera’s slot in the Avintia Ducati MotoGP team will be taken by Australian rider Mike Jones.
The decision was forced upon Ducati by Dorna and IRTA. Under the FIM regulations, teams must make “every reasonable effort” to replace an absent rider, with only force majeure (or exceptional circumstances beyond their control) acceptable as a reason to leave a seat empty.
The series organizers clearly believed that force majeure did not apply in this case, as Iannone’s decision to skip the race was due to an injury picked up at Misano, five weeks ago.
Andrea Iannone is to miss the MotoGP round at Motegi. The Italian has been advised by his doctors to skip the first of the three Pacific flyaway rounds to allow the vertebra he fractured at Misano to heal.
Iannone picked up the injury on the first day of his home race at Misano. Though the injury is on the forward side of the T3 vertebra, making it less vulnerable to a repeat injury, the fracture has caused him to miss both Misano and Aragon. Motegi will be the third race which Iannone will be forced to miss.
Yamaha continues to hand out rewards for its recent win at the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, having just granted Alex Lowes a ride on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 MotoGP bike this past weekend at the British GP, and this coming weekend at the San Marino GP.
Yamaha’s next recipient will be its test rider, Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who will get the honor of racing as a wild card in front of his home crowd at the Japanese GP in Motegi, Japan.
Nakasuga-san is no stranger to the MotoGP paddock, and this year’s race in Japan will be the fifth time that Nakasuga has raced in the Japanese GP.
More good news on Alex De Angelis’ condition. On Saturday, the Ioda Racing team issued a press release announcing that De Angelis had been cleared to fly home by the doctors at the Dokkyo University Hospital.
After eight days in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, doctors are no longer listing him as being in critical condition. With De Angelis no longer critical, he will be able to fly home to San Marino, where he will receive further treatment in the State Hospital in the tiny mountain microstate.