2018 is coming to a close now, so we of course are looking back at what happened over the past year in the motorcycle industry.
There was no shortage of weighty stories in 2018, so we picked just our Top 5 big themes from the year to share with you.
They range from business items, racing news, and new motorcycles (or the lack thereof). Without too much fanfare, let’s get into it, and see Asphalt & Rubber‘s most important stories from 2018.
It wasn’t that long ago that we were talking about the actions of Romano Fenati at the San Marino GP, where he reached out and grabbed the front brake lever of a competitor’s bike, while going over 120 mph.
The act saw immediate outrage in the MotoGP paddock. It led to Fenati being sacked by his 2018 squad, the Marinelli Snipers Team, and then booted from his 2019 outfit, the MV Agusta Moto2 team being lead by Forward Racing.
A two-race ban by the FIM Stewards also was handed down to the 22-year-old, which was later turned into a ban from racing for the rest of the year by the FIM. Soon afterwards, Fenati announced his intention to quit motorcycle racing all together, and the matter seemed finally at its conclusion.
Forever has been short-lived however, as rumors from the MotoGP paddock tip that “Naughty Fenati” will be back on the race track next year, returning for the 2019 Moto3 season with the same Marinelli Snipers Team…the same team that fired him earlier this season.
Naming a corner after a rider confers a particular honor on that rider, but it also puts enormous pressure on them. The last time it happened – Jerez in 2013, where the final corner was named after Jorge Lorenzo – things didn’t quite work out the way the honoree had hoped.
Dani Pedrosa went on to win the race comfortably, while Lorenzo was bumped aside in his eponymous corner by Marc Márquez, finishing the race in third, and clearly upset. That gave rise to an episode of “Handshakegate”, a recurring paddock melodrama, where Jorge Lorenzo refused the proffered hand of Marc Márquez, wagging his finger in the younger Spaniard’s face as a sign of disapproval.
So what does this mean for Turn 10 at the Motorland Aragon circuit? The long left hander which starts at the bottom of the “Sacacorchos”, Aragon’s very own version of Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew, dips then rises round towards Turn 11, and the back half of the circuit.
Today, after resisting for several years, Marc Márquez finally accepted the honor of having the corner named after him, in a ceremony featuring Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta, the circuit director Santiago Abad, and circuit President Marta Gaston.
Misano is still casting a long shadow over the Grand Prix paddock. Or at least parts of it. Most specifically, the aftermath of Romano Fenati’s disqualification after touching Stefano Manzi’s brake lever during the Moto2 race, and the decision by the Reale Avintia team to draft in Frenchman Christophe Ponsson to replace the injured Tito Rabat.
Episode 83 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see Steve English, Neil Morrison & David Emmett on the mics, as they discuss the recent San Marino GP at Misano.
Before we can get to a dissection of the weekend’s racing, the first part of the show covers the Romano Fenati situation, and gets the perspective of these three MotoGP pundits regarding the Moto2 incident.
After a lengthy conversation about Fenati, the show turns to the Ducati MotoGP program, and talks about how the Italian motorcycle is widely held as the best on the grid. Despite having to take on the Ducatis though, Marc Marquez has still been able to fend off Dovizioso and Lorenzo in the Championship results.
Romano Fenati burst onto the racing scene like a meteor, burning bright and lighting up Moto3. In his first race, at Qatar in 2012, he finished second behind Maverick Viñales. In his second, at Jerez, in difficult conditions, he won by a fearsome 36 seconds. Here was surely a rider to watch for the future.
His ascension to greatness did not run as smoothly as those early races promised. A couple more podiums in 2012 saw him finish sixth in the championship on the underpowered FTR Honda.
After a tough 2013, he rediscovered his form when he was invited to become part of the VR46 Academy, and signed to ride a KTM with the Sky VR46 Racing Team the following year. The change did him good, winning four races and finishing fifth in the championship.
2015 saw less success, Fenati showing signs of frustration. During the warm up in Argentina, the Italian lashed out at Niklas Ajo inexplicably, first trying to kick him, then stopping next to the Finn for a practice start, and reaching over a flicking his kill switch.
In what has to be the most strongly worded press release we have seen in this business, MV Agusta and Forward Racing made it crystal clear why there were terminating their relationship with rider Romano Fenati, who was set to join the Italian company’s Moto2 project next season.
“In all my years of watching sport, I have never seen behavior as dangerous as this,” said MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni. “A rider who can act like this can never represent the values of our company for our brand. For this reason, we do not want him to be the rider with which MV Agusta makes its return to the World Championship.”
Even those who don’t follow motorcycle racing are talking about Fenati’s actions from this past weekend’s San Marino GP, where the 22-year-old Italian grabbed the brake lever of Stefano Manzi, as the pair raced at over 130 mph.
The Moto2 Championship doesn’t often make the headlines in the motorcycle racing sphere, but I bet you are hearing all about this weekend’s Moto2 race at the San Marino GP. For those who are late to the story, much is being said about an incident where Romano Fenati grabbed Stefano Manzi’s front brake lever, as the pair hurled down the Misano circuit at over 200 km/h.
Caught on camera, the incident in just one of several between the two riders during the Moto2 race this weekend, as Fenati and Manzi traded paint and hand gestures at several points of the competition, but the focus of the attention remains on the shocking act that Fenati took down the back straight of the circuit.
For the fans in attendance, and for those watching at home, you were witness to one of the most irresponsible events that can take place on a race track – an act that I would argue is tantamount to attempted murder on a motorcycle.
It therefore boggles the mind that at this point in time, Romano Fenati still has a license to race with the FIM, once his two-race suspension is completed.
Ever since MV Agusta announced that it was going to return to the Grand Prix paddock with a Moto2 team, the question has been who would ride the Italian squad’s Moto2 machine, dubbed the MV Agusta F2.
Today, we have that answer, as Romano Fenati has been named as one of two MV Agusta Reparto Corse riders.
The signing of Fenati is an interesting move by Forward Racing and MV Agusta, as the Italian rider has struggled this season in Moto2 (his first season in the intermediate class), and comes with some tumultuous baggage from his Moto3 days.
Still, the raw talent of Fenati is widely hailed, and with the right machinery and the right team environment, that talent can be honed and matured.
If the 2017 MotoGP season has been anything, it has been entirely unpredictable. After two races, we were declaring the season over, and penciling Maverick Viñales’ name on the trophy.
A race later, and we were conceding that Valentino Rossi had taken over the lead of the championship, and that meant that whoever won the title would be riding a Yamaha.
After four races the top four were within ten points, and we gave up on there being a favorite, only to change our minds again after Le Mans, where Valentino Rossi crashed out trying to beat his teammate, and Viñales took a 17-point lead again.
After Mugello, when Andrea Dovizioso won his first dry MotoGP race, Viñales led by 26 points, and was ahead of reigning champion Marc Márquez by 37 points. We had our favorite once again.
Three races and two changes in the championship lead later, and we have given up again. The top four are back within ten points of each other again, and making predictions is looking increasingly foolish.
There was one certainty we could cling to, and would not allow ourselves to let go: At the Sachsenring, Marc Márquez takes pole, and then goes on to win the race.
It has happened the last seven years Márquez has raced at the Sachsenring, from 125s to Moto2 to MotoGP. Surely he would repeat that again? Surely, Marc Márquez would break the unpredictability of MotoGP in 2017?
Episode 50 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees Steve English, David Emmett, and Neil Morrison covering the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
With wins from Marquez, Morbidelli, and Fenati all three classes produced some obvious winners, though the on-track action was far from predictable, which gives some good conversational fodder for the boys to discuss.
Something new for this season, the show ends with a new segment, with the hosts picking their “winners” and “losers” from the race weekend. A short but in-depth episode, we think you will enjoy this week’s show.
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