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San Marino GP

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Thursday was the first chance most of the media got to talk to the MotoGP riders after the test at Misano two weeks ago, and find out what they really thought about the test, rather than trying to decode the meaning of the press releases issued.

That clarified a lot about the test, answering some of the questions we had been left with, and intriguingly, raising yet more questions which had slipped under the radar.

As always, however, when you ask different riders about a subject, they will have different opinions. Even if they are teammates, like Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli. Asked about the state of the track, Quartararo expressed concern about the lack of grip, especially in certain places.

“For me, [track grip] was terrible, but some corners were good, some corners were less, and one corner was totally a disaster, corner 14,” the Petronas Yamaha rider said.

“I think many riders crashed in this corner. I heard that when Marc crashed, he thought it was the white line which they just painted, but as soon as you want to put lean angle in this corner, you crash. And I have a lot of big moments in this corner. Let’s see if it improves this weekend, because in the test it was a really critical place to ride.”

There is a lot to like about the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, aka The MotoGP Race With The Name Which Is Too Long To Fit In A Headline. The track is just a stone’s throw from the Italian coast, so visitors can spend their days at the track and their evenings at the beach, soaking up the atmosphere.

The weather is (usually) spectacular, the food is outstanding, and the area has a long association with motor sports, and motorcycle racing in particular. A quarter of the paddock could probably sleep in their own beds and commute to the track at the weekend.

But the upsides also have a downside. The location of the circuit may be perfect for the fans, but it is a nightmare for crew chiefs and riders. The sea mist which settles on the track most nights brings salt along with it, robbing it of grip.

The spectacular weather in September usually also means the sun burning down, raising track temperatures to the high 40s Centigrade, and into the region where the grip falls off a cliff. The track can be greasy and unpredictable, and despite being resurfaced to address these issues, physics and chemistry will always prevail.

Franco Morbidelli knows the track well. As part of the VR46 Riders Academy, he rides the track on a very regular basis, and knows how it changes throughout the year.

“We all know that we are going to struggle with the grip,” he says. “Misano, especially in this moment of the year has no grip at all. It’s very hot, I think that the salt that comes from the sea somehow affects the grip. I know the track very well, and I know how it reacts, and during the summer, it’s completely different, no grip at all.”

Episode 83 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see Steve EnglishNeil 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.

Things are going poorly for Romano Fenati. His actions during Sunday’s Moto2 race at Misano, when he reached over and squeezed Stefano Manzi’s front brake, are having far-reaching repercussions. 

On Sunday, the FIM Panel of Stewards penalized Fenati with a two-race ban. On Monday morning, he was sacked from his current Moto2 ride by the Marinelli Snipers Racing Team. On Monday afternoon, he also lost his 2019 ride with the MV Agusta Forward Racing Team. 

More was to come on Tuesday. First, the Italian motorcycle federation FMI revoked Fenati’s racing license for all sporting activities in Italy. This also renders him ineligible to compete in any international or world championship events, as international racing licenses are also issued by the national federation, which in Fenati’s case is the FMI. He has been invited to a hearing on September 14th, at which he will have the right to representation by a lawyer.

Then, the FIM, the international motorcycling federation, summoned Fenati to the FIM headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, to explain his actions. In a press release, shown at the bottom of this story, FIM President Vito Ippolito summoned Fenati to the FIM to hear his side of the story, before considering further action against the Italian.

Another San Marino GP means that we have another special helmet design from Valentino Rossi. Celebrating his home grand prix, The Doctor this time riffs on the movie Back to the Future, borrowing the movie’s typeface for his “Back to Misano” title, and throwing a nod to the DeLoren time machine.

The new design for the Rossi’s helmet is also a reference to last year’s edition of the San Marino GP, which Rossi had to miss because of a training incident where he broke his tibia and fibula bones

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.