Two down, one to go. The last of the flyaways is always the hardest, in many ways. Three races on three consecutive weekends means that riders never have time to heal from even the small injuries they receive each weekend, from minor falls, or the blisters on their hands.
Spending many hours cloistered in aircraft flying long distance makes catching colds, flu, or other respiratory diseases inevitable. Team members being cooped up together for nearly four weeks means relationships are at best strained, at worst verging on violent.
Then there’s the contrast in climate. Even at its best, Phillip Island can be chilly, so traveling from there to the sweltering tropical heat of Malaysia is a physical shock. To step on a plane in the freezing cold, then step off it to be drenched in sweat is tough for people already drained from so much travel and racing.
Then to race for 45 minutes in punishing heat and humidity, at a track which is physically very challenging, because of the heavy braking zones around the track. The stress, mental and physical, is enormous.
Perhaps it was that stress that caused the MotoGP series to explode at Sepang last year.
Smarting from being beaten into fourth place at Phillip Island by Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, and Andrea Iannone, Valentino Rossi seized upon the theory apparently put forward by his friend and business partner Alessio ‘Uccio’ Salucci, that Márquez had decided to conspire against Rossi to hand Jorge Lorenzo the 2015 MotoGP title.
Márquez had attempted to accomplish this by beating Lorenzo in Australia. And in the press conference at Sepang, he launched his accusations against the Repsol Honda rider.
Farewell, MotoGP penalty point system, we barely knew you. In a press release issued today (and rather bizarrely, leaked to a Spanish journalist two days ago) the FIM announced that the Grand Prix Commission had decided to modify the penalty point system.
From now on, the only penalty to be imposed will happen once a rider accrues a total of ten points, at which point they will be disqualified for one race. The penalties for four (starting from the back of the grid) and seven points (starting from pit lane) have been dropped.
At a stroke, the penalty point system has been emasculated.
As we reported on Tuesday, changes are to be made to Race Direction. At a meeting in Geneva on Thursday, the Grand Prix Commission decided to change the way disciplinary matters are handled by Race Direction.
For this season, a separate body is to be set up to handle all incidents on track requiring disciplinary action.
These issues have been handled by Race Direction until now, but the incident at Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez led to calls for such decisions to be taken away from Race Direction, to allow quicker decisions to be made.
From the start of the 2016 season, all disciplinary matters will be dealt with by a separate panel, consisting of three people. One of those will be Mike Webb, who as MotoGP Race Director is ultimately responsible for all aspects of the MotoGP race.
Mike Webb will be joined by two stewards appointed by the FIM. Those stewards have yet to be appointed, and the press release issued by the FIM does not make clear whether the stewards will be appointed permanently, for a full season, or for each race individually.
In the case of an incident which needs to be investigated by the panel of stewards, Mike Webb will hand over his duties as Race Director to a newly appointed deputy, Graham Webber.
Race Direction is to be altered in the wake of the clash in Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. A proposal to split the responsibilities of Race Direction is to be adopted at the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission to be held on Thursday.
The proposal will see the responsibility for disciplinary matters removed from the current four members of Race Direction, and placed in the hands of a separate panel of stewards.
Race Direction will continue to be in charge of all aspects of running the race, including marshalling and safety, but incidents between riders will be investigated by the new panel.
They will be charged with judging all incidents of unfair play, and especially of violations of rule 1.21.2, which mandates responsible behavior by the riders on track.
If the Movistar Yamaha launch at Barcelona made one thing clear, it is that the feud between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez will be just as bitter in 2016 as it was in 2015.
In Barcelona, Rossi once again repeated the litany of charges he leveled against Marc Márquez at the end of last season. Márquez had decided early in the season he would try to stop Rossi from winning the title, had played with Rossi at Phillip Island, done far worse at Sepang, then stayed behind Lorenzo at Valencia to hand him the title. For Valentino Rossi, nothing has changed since Valencia 2015.
Is this a problem for MotoGP? Those in senior positions in the sport certainly think so. At the Movistar launch, Yamaha Racing boss Lin Jarvis spoke of the need for respect from all parties.
On Friday, the FIM issued a press release containing an interview with FIM President Vito Ippolito, in which he said the FIM had asked Honda not to release the data from Márquez’s bike at Sepang, which Márquez claims shows evidence of a kick by Rossi, to prevent throwing more fuel on the fire.
Entirely predictably, neither strategy worked. When asked about Jarvis’ comment on respect, Rossi retorted that neither Márquez nor Jorge Lorenzo had shown him any respect at the end of last year.
Ippolito’s statement that the FIM had asked Honda not to release the data led to a host of news stories in the media, and more outpourings of rage among fans on social media and forums. This was a conspiracy, to hide the facts from the fans, they said. The controversy was back, and strong as ever.
If anyone thought that the start of the 2016 season would mean an end to the bitter divisions of 2015, they will be bitterly disappointed. The launch of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team, at title sponsor Movistar’s regional headquarters in Barcelona, brought the whole affair back to the surface.
It was the first time since Valencia that the racing press had the chance to put questions to Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, and both the questions asked and answers given helped reignite the flames of controversy.
Rossi restated his belief that Marc Márquez conspired against him to hand the title to Lorenzo. Lorenzo expressed his frustration at being drawn into something he had no part of. Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis called for respect from all sides, and expressed Yamaha’s concerns about the way situations such as Sepang are handled.
Above all, the Italian press showed a dogged pursuit of the post-Sepang fallout, bombarding Rossi with questions about the affair, and probing Lorenzo about his thoughts. The soap opera is set to run and run.
Valentino Rossi has formally withdrawn his appeal against the three penalty points handed down to him in the clash at Sepang.
The Italian had originally appealed the three points handed down by Race Direction for the incident with Marc Marquez at Turn 14 at Sepang, first to the FIM Stewards, and after the FIM Stewards had rejected his appeal, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
After filing the appeal to the CAS, Rossi then filed an appeal for a stay of the three-point penalty. If that stay had been granted, then Rossi would not have had to start from the back of the grid at Valencia.
We thought the MotoGP drama would subside at Valencia, but the final race of the season proved it would not go quietly into that good night.
David, Neil, and Tony talk about both the on-track and off-track shenanigans that occurred in Spain. The guys leave no stone un-turned as they examine Marquez’s pace, Rossi’s surge to the front, and Lorenzo’s Championship victory.
We also talk about the Moto3 Championship, and the drama behind the scenes for Danny Kent. This is surely an episode you do not want to miss if you are a Grand Prix racing fan.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
The Court of Arbitration for Sport has rejected Valentino Rossi’s request for a stay of his penalty, given to him at Sepang. The three-point penalty, handed to him at Sepang for the incident he was involved in with Marc Marquez, means he will start from the back of the grid for the final race of the season at Valencia.
Rossi will still be entitled to participate in Q2, if he finishes in the top ten after the three sessions of free practice, but the position he secures in Q2 will not count for his grid position. Everyone who qualifies behind him will be moved forward one position on the grid.
This is probably the episode you all have been waiting for from the Paddock Pass Podcast, the guys’ perspective on the Phillip Island and Sepang rounds. On-hand for the chat are the usual suspects: David Emmett, Neil Morrison, Tony Goldsmith, as well as special guest Jensen Beeler (hey that’s me!).
The show is a bit longer than usual, but as you can imagine catching up with two MotoGP rounds and having to hash out the entire Sepang Clash fiasco is a bit of an undertaking. What does the future hold for Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, and Jorge Lorenzo? Tune in to find out, with the embedded player found after the jump.
Also, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Cheers!
In response to Honda’s press release issued on Monday, Yamaha today published a press release on the incidents at Sepang which takes issue with Honda’s statements. You can read Yamaha’s press release, after the jump.