Herve Poncharal On John Kocinski And Maverick Viñales: If A Rider Is Winning, Anybody Will Offer Them A Contract

When Yamaha’s press release came out on the Thursday before the Austrian GP announcing that they had suspended Maverick Viñales, because of what they described as "an unexplained irregular operation of the motorcycle" by Viñales during the previous weekend‘s Styria MotoGP race, another rider’s name came up in every conversation: John Kocinski. Memories of the American rider's behavior in Assen, 1993, after the 250 cc race, where he finished third – and upset.

A day later the person running a fan page for Kocinski on Facebook posted the following message, claiming to be from Kocinski:

“A lot has been said in the MotoGP media this week, comparing Maverick Viñales’ incident to the 1993 250cc Suzuki incident. For the record in Assen 1993, on the cool down lap, the countershaft sprocket fell off which made the chain come off. The engine was immediately tuned off by the kill switch, hoping the rear wheel wouldn't lock up. Got the bike off to the side of the track and parked it. That is what really happened! #Facts #KocinskiFans #MotoGP”

Well, as they say, everyone who is part of a story has a different version of it, their own perspective. Being at the Red Bull Ring, I took the opportunity to get the perspective of someone else who was there at the time: Hervé Poncharal, Kocinski’s team manager in 1993.

Q: So Hervé, you were the team manager of John Kocinski in 1993.

[Poncharal starts laughing hard…]

How do you remember what he did after the flag in Assen?

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Jake Dixon To Race Petronas MotoGP Bike At Silverstone, Cal Crutchlow To Monster Energy Yamaha Team

The Petronas Yamaha team announced that Jake Dixon is to move up to the MotoGP team for his home round at Silverstone. The British rider is to ride the bike of the injured Franco Morbidelli.

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Lin Jarvis Interview: On Rossi Retiring, Working With Viñales, Yamaha's Revival, And The Future Of MotoGP

It has been a tumultuous first half of 2021 for Yamaha. With Fabio Quartararo comfortably leading the championship, Valentino Rossi announcing his retirement from MotoGP at the end of the season, and Maverick Viñales winning the first race and then dramatically splitting from Yamaha mid-season, there has been a lot going on.

On Saturday of the Styria Grand Prix, the first race at the Red Bull Ring, I spoke to Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing, about how their season has gone so far. We spoke about Valentino Rossi's retirement, and the impact he has had at and for Yamaha, and we talked about how Yamaha made the M1 more competitive after a difficult 2020.

We also talked about Maverick Viñales, though this was before the Spaniard's bizarre Styria race, in which a pit lane start and electrical gremlins saw him become so frustrated he took it out on his Yamaha M1, holding the bike on the stop in fifth gear rather than changing up. That led to a suspension and eventual split, but Jarvis' views on Viñales prior to these events are still instructive.

That discussion led Jarvis to explain their approach to finding a replacement for Viñales in the factory team, and what happens next at Petronas Yamaha. And finally, Jarvis gives his view of how the MSMA has come together to get through the pandemic, and how that affects MotoGP going forward.

Q: I didn't want to make this interview about Valentino Rossi, but it’s really hard not to start on about it just because of the importance of it. When did you find out he was going to retire?

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Maverick Viñales Out At Yamaha With Immediate Effect

The rocky relationship between Maverick Viñales and Yamaha has come to an early end. The Japanese factory announced today that they would be releasing Viñales from his contract effective immediately. Viñales is now free to start work with Aprilia, in theory at least.

The de facto sacking of Viñales is the end of a precipitous decline in the relationship between the two parties. The Spaniard signed on for two more years with Yamaha (for 2021 and 2022) very early, agreeing a new deal with Yamaha in January 2020, when Viñales was being hunted by Ducati.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Time And Tide (Wait For No Man)

I am striking while the iron of competition is hot here. In addition, it is halfway through the season now, so time for a recap. This is a chance to indulge in a bit of fortune telling and then possibly a nightcap when the laptop lid closes on another busy workday.

It’s just a short time since the racing fates piled into the 2021 WorldSBK street fights that took place in the shadow of a heavenly Czech Castle in Bohemia and the reflection of a ‘flame-off’ from whatever satanic mill was blasting away just down the hill from the Motodrom Most.

At a characterful but sporadically outdated new WorldSBK venue, the 2021 WorldSBK championship trendometer swung to full scale deflection once again as those aforementioned racing fates jumped on Toprak Razgatlioglu’s pillion and helped him win two, and nearly three, races on his factory Yamaha. Fairly turbocharged him they did, and a treble was almost achieved.

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Austria MotoGP Race Subscriber Notes: Flag-to-Flag Timing, Racing Slicks In The Wet, Why Fabio Is Fast, And The New Marc Marquez

For the first time in four races at the Red Bull Ring, MotoGP managed to complete a race without being interrupted by a red flag. The riders did the warm up lap, lined up on the grid, took off once the lights went out, and completed 28 laps of the Spielberg circuit in one go. The last time that happened was in 2019.

Just because they went from lights to flag without interruption doesn't necessarily mean there was just one race, however. Where the two races in 2020 and last week's Styrian Grand Prix had been split by crashes, on Sunday it was the weather which divided the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix into effectively two separate events. Or perhaps even three.

There was a dry 21 laps, which saw three riders break away, Pecco Bagnaia leading Marc Marquez and Fabio Quartararo in a tense waiting game where it was obvious the outcome was to be decided in the closing stages, all three riders keeping something in reserve for the last couple of laps.

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Austria MotoGP Saturday Round Up: A Record-Breaking Pole, 7-Day Déjà Vu, Hard Fronts, And Viñales' Future

The thing about back-to-back races is that everyone gets faster. Or at least, that's the idea. With an extra weekend of data under their belts, the teams should have a pretty good idea about the ideal setting for the bike at a track, and returning to a circuit where they had raced a week before, the riders should be able to navigate every corner, bump, and braking zone with their eyes closed.

The track should be better too. With a weekend of motorcycle rubber on the track to replace the residue left by cars, there is more grip for the riders to exploit. The stars should all be aligned for everyone to be faster the second time around.

As it turns out, that is only partially true. Johann Zarco raised expectations in FP1, smashing the pole record set by Jorge Martin the previous week by over a tenth of a second. In FP3, both Pecco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo dived under Martin's previous record as well, though they were still a ways behind Zarco's time. So in qualifying, surely Zarco's record would fall, and half the grid or more would be into the 1'22s?

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Austria MotoGP Friday Round Up: Rain Wrecks Plans, Riding Wet And Dry, Helping Marquez' Shoulder, And The Binder Brothers

We know that the weather in the mountains is changeable, but Friday at the Red Bull Ring took the cake. A bright, sunny morning, with ideal conditions for riding – so ideal that Johann Zarco sliced another tenth of a second off the outright lap record in FP1 – and in the last ten minutes or so of FP2 for the Moto3 class, a few drops of rain, and then lightning, and a hailstorm in 30°C heat. The MotoGP riders went out on a soaking track, but by the time the session finished, it was almost dry.

Iker Lecuona seized his opportunity. The Tech3 KTM rider had been quick enough on wets, but at the end of FP2, he swapped to slicks, and banged in a time nearly 3.4 seconds faster than anyone else had managed. Jack Miller was the only other rider to stick a set of slicks in at the end, though he was not chasing a time, but trying to understand how the medium slicks would work on a track which was still quite wet.

"I just went out on the mediums to understand how they work in quite a lot of water on the track," Miller explained. "Because it's quite stop-start here, you're putting a lot of weight on both the front and the rear tyre, and the medium definitely feels better. So I just wanted to understand how quickly I could get them up to temperature and working, and they worked pretty good."

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Austria MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Spielberg's Bad Vibes, A stiffer Front Tire, And Closer Second Races

The Red Bull Ring has faced much criticism in the six years since MotoGP started going back there, mostly about the safety of the riders on track. But one thing that gets overlooked is the circuit's propensity for generating drama off track. In 2020, we had Andrea Dovizioso announcing he would not be racing with Ducati again in 2021. In 2019, we had the drama with Johann Zarco splitting with KTM, with additional drama around Jack Miller possibly losing a place to Jorge Lorenzo, who would return to Ducati to take Miller's place at Pramac.

The year before, Yamaha had held a press conference in which management and engineers officially apologized to factory riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales for building a dog-slow bike that left them 11th and 14th on the grid. Spielberg was the place where Romano Fenati got into an altercation with the Sky VR46 Moto2 team, and was sacked in 2016.

So much discord and division. Perhaps the circuit is built on a conjunction of ley lines, or perhaps the Spielberg track was built on an ancient cemetery where the contemporaries of Ötzi were buried. Or perhaps the middle of a MotoGP season is when tensions generally reach boiling point. The latter explanation is the most likely, perhaps, though a good deal less entertaining.

Bouncing off the limiter

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Yamaha Suspends Maverick Viñales For Austrian GP For "Irregular Operation" - But What Exactly Did He Do?

Yamaha has suspended Maverick Viñales from participating in this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. In a press release issued today, the Monster Energy Yamaha said Viñales had been suspended for "the unexplained irregular operation of the motorcycle by the rider during last weekend's Styria MotoGP race".

According to Yamaha, this behavior was visible in the data logged by the Yamaha M1, and that data forced Yamaha to draw the conclusion that "the rider‘s actions could have potentially caused significant damage to the engine of his YZR-M1 bike which could have caused serious risks to the rider himself and possibly posed a danger to all other riders in the MotoGP race".

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