The MotoGP grid is set to expand to 24 riders once again in 2017. The current teams are expected to retain the 21 grid slots already allotted, while KTM’s factory team will take two more when the Austrian manufacturer enters MotoGP next year.
This will take the grand total up to 23 seats, leaving one more grid slot to be filled.
Who will fill that final grid slot has been the subject of much speculation. Rumors that the Sky VR46 team were to take the slot were immediately quashed by team manager Pablo Nieto, saying they were only interested in Moto3 and Moto2.
Sources indicate that there are two firm candidates, with three more having expressed an interest. The two candidates include one MotoGP team, and one Moto2 team.
The MotoGP team interested in expanding is LCR. The Monaco-based team ran two bikes in 2015, but sponsorship woes had forced them to cut back to just a single bike for the 2016 season.
When asked if he was interested the final grid slot, team boss Lucio Cecchinello acknowledged that he was, and that he was working towards securing sufficient budget to meet the submission deadline on 29th April.
Things appear to be looking up for Forward Racing. After a very dark period when the future of the team was in danger, following the arrest of team owner Giovanni Cuzari, the team is moving on to a slightly more stable footing.
Earlier this week, they announced that former Moto2 champion Toni Elias is to ride for the team for the last five races of the 2015 season. Elias will be replacing Claudio Corti, who has stood in for Stefan Bradl after the German departed for Aprilia.
Forward Racing boss Giovanni Cuzari remains under arrest in Lugano, Switzerland, and the team remain in doubt whether they will be able to participate in the next MotoGP round, scheduled for Indianapolis on August 9th.
The biggest problem the team faces is that their bank accounts have been frozen, as part of the ongoing investigation into tax evasion, fraud, and corruption which Cuzari and Libero Galli have been charged with by the Swiss authorities.
The Open class Yamaha M1s and equipment belonging to the team are already in Indianapolis, having been flown there by IRTA after the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring.
But without access to money to be able to pay for flights, hotels, car rental, and all of the other sundry expenses that are necessary to allow a MotoGP team to actually go racing, Forward Racing team manager Marco Curioni has called on the series organizers to help them make the race at Indy.
The Forward Racing team faces an uncertain future. On his return from the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring, Forward Racing boss Giovanni Cuzari was arrested by the Swiss authorities on charges of suspected corruption of a public official, and money laundering through sponsorship activities.
Cuzari remains under arrest, and is expected to face a hearing on Friday or Saturday. That hearing will determine whether Cuzari will be released, or will have to remain under arrest while the investigation continues.
At the heart of the case are allegations that the head of the Ticino tax inspectorate, Libero Galli, accepted bribes in return for special treatment by the Swiss tax authorities. Libero is charged with abuse of authority, passive corruption and improper application of fiscal regulations.
With the news that Erik Buell Racing has ceased operations and will be headed into receivership, doubt has been cast on the company’s racing efforts in the World Superbike Championship. Allaying some fears, Team Manager and Rider Larry Pegram spoke to the WorldSBK.com website, saying that the team would indeed race in Assen, as planned.
“For Team Hero EBR, nothing has really changed,” Pegram said while speaking to WorldSBK.com. “We are going to be racing this weekend and we plan to continue for the season. All indications are that we are going to be able to do that. There is obviously some restructuring and financial stuff going on in the USA, but we are over here in Assen and getting ready for a good weekend.”
Drive M7, the Malaysian energy drink firm, has issued a response to the claims by Aspar that Drive had pulled out of sponsoring team at the last minute.
Last Wednesday, the day before the 2015 MotoGP season was due to kick off, Aspar boss Juan Martinez claimed that Drive M7 had only just told him about their decision to pull out of sponsoring the team the day before. Drive M7 disputes that version of events.
When approached by top British motorcycle racing publication Bikesport News for a response to those claims, the Malaysian energy drink company issued a statement explaining that they understood that the 2014 sponsorship agreement – worth €1.8 million – would not be extended due to ongoing claims of trademark infringement.
It has been a tough day for sponsorship news in the MotoGP paddock. After news earlier of LCR Honda’s title sponsor CWM being subject of a fraud investigation, the Aspar Honda team have lost their title sponsor, Drive M7.
The Malaysian energy drink firm have withdrawn their sponsorship of the team on the day before the 2015 season was due to start.
According to German language publication Speedweek, the Drive M7 management told team owner Jorge Martinez about the decision on Tuesday night.
The decision was a surprise, as it had been expected that the deal would continue in 2015, with both Nicky Hayden and Eugene Laverty riding in Drive M7 testing colors during preseason testing.
Yamaha is ready to go racing in the 2015 MotoGP World Championship, and the Japanese OEM debuted today its factory team and racing livery. Of course riding for Yamaha Racing are Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, and their weapon of choice will be the Yamaha YZR-M1 GP race bike.
2015 does not see too much changing in the MotoGP rulebook, so the 2015 Yamaha YZR-M1 is fairly close in spec to the 2014 model, though you can be certain that Yamaha and its team of engineers have not been wasting the off-season time with idle hands.
This season sees Abarth, the tuning brand of Fiat, as an official sponsor of the Yamaha MotoGP team, re-igniting the two company’s previous collaboration when both Rossi and Edwards worked for the Iwata-based manufacturer.
We won’t bore you with anymore details, we know you came for the high-resolution photos. You’ll find plenty of them, in all their bandwidth-busting glory, after the jump.
Good news for American road racing fans, as MotoAmerica has announced its TV and online streaming agreement for the 2015 season and onward.
The multi-year agreement sees all MotoAmerica races being televised on the CBS Sports Network, during the weekend afternoons and in primetime.
Event highlights, features, and other content will be featured on Torque TV, which will serve as a central online destination for American motorcycle racing enthusiasts.
What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing?
Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation?
You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money.
Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.
Honda Racing and Red Bull have announced an enhancement to their collaboration in MotoGP through the Repsol Honda team, which sees the energy drink company’s logo featured on Honda’s factory team starting in the 2015 season, as it becomes the official energy drink for the team as well.
The two parties have collaborated over the last nine years, but the Red Bull logo has never before been featured on the Repsol Honda machinery, despite Red Bull supporting both Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa with personal sponsorships.