Post Argentina News Round Up: Binder Breaks Arm, Riders Want Qualifying Change, WorldSBK In Argentina

Along with a thrilling weekend of racing, several interesting items of news emerged in Argentina. Brad Binder and Remy Gardner were injured, and face surgery. Discussions were held in the Safety Commission on deciding who progresses to Q1 and Q2. And at a press conference, Dorna announced that the WorldSBK championship will be racing in Argentina in 2018, at a new circuit in the west of the country.

Binder breaks arm, Gardner damages ankle

First, to the injury news. Brad Binder had his best result on the KTM Moto2 bike so far, but his weekend was far from a success. The reigning Moto3 champion has been struggling all off season with a broken arm which was healing slowly, after a plate put in his arm to fix the broken bones in place had only partially succeeded in doing so. Speaking at the Jerez test in February, he described his arm as being "nowhere near where we'd hoped it would be." Progress has been slow since then.

Things got worse during practice in Argentina. After his arm had swollen up overnight, Binder had the arm X-rayed on Sunday morning. That revealed that the arm had broken again, and the plate holding the bone together had shifted. Binder raced anyway, and achieved his best result of the season, finishing in ninth place. It was an act of remarkable fortitude, given the pain he must have been in. He joked to BT Sport reporters Gavin Emmett and Neil Hodgson, "the Clinica have some really good painkillers," after the race.

Binder is now flying back to Barcelona, where new surgery is planned to fix the plate in place again. The recovery period from that surgery is likely to be six weeks, meaning he will miss at least the Austin and Jerez races, but could be back in time for Le Mans. While the KTM Ajo team are waiting for the results of surgery, there has been no word on a replacement.

Another rider flew back to Barcelona on Monday for surgery. Tech 3's Remy Gardner was taken out by another rider for the second race in a row. Unlike in Qatar, where the Australian escaped relatively unharmed, Gardner suffered a suspected fractured ankle in the crash at Termas De Rio Hondo. Once he arrives in Barcelona, he will be examined by Dr Mir at the Dexeus Institut to assess whether he will require surgery to fix the ankle.

It is an unfortunate turn of events for Gardner. The young Australian had been showing improving form since joining the Tech 3 team, but bad luck in races – brought on in part by qualifying well down the order – means he is yet to complete a lap in a race. Whether Gardner will be forced to miss any further race will be assessed once a decision has been made about his injured ankle.

From Free Practice to Qualifying

The Safety Commission in Argentina had plenty to discuss. Along with the saga of the additional Michelin front tire, it appears the riders also discussed an alternative approach to qualifying, according to the Catalan radio station Catalunya Radio.

The idea under discussion is that times from FP1 and FP2 would no longer count towards deciding who goes straight through to Q2, and who would have to pass through Q1 instead. The free practice sessions on Friday would then return to being about bike set up, and FP3 on Saturday morning would turn into a pre-qualifying session for determining Q2. According to Catalunya Radio, the riders asked Dorna and IRTA to consider the proposal at the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission at Jerez.

The issue for the riders is that the have to spend time every session trying to put in a "banker lap", a single flying lap fast enough to ensure safe passage to Q2 in case rain spoils the remaining sessions. It means that in practice, the riders and teams only get around 35 minutes of actual set up time, while having to dedicate a couple of laps to setting a quick time. By having pre-qualifying concentrated in FP3, they could focus more on setup on Friday.

While this would be good for the riders and the teams, it may not be as attractive for the fans. Because each session now actually matters, counts towards who lines up in Q2, it adds a welcome note of tension to all three free practice sessions. Free practices 1, 2, and 3 all have an element of excitement about them, and give crowds and TV viewers more reason to watch them. Dorna will have to weigh up how much of a factor that added excitement is in helping to sell TV rights packages to broadcasters.

Dropping FP1 and FP2 from pre-qualifying may have unintended consequences on the racing as well. Giving the teams more time to focus solely on setup would remove a random element from the equation. The more time teams have to work on setup, the greater the gap between the big, successful factory teams and the smaller independent teams.

Factory teams have more engineers going over the data, and more resources to find the right setting for each rider at each track. Independent teams have fewer resources, and need to get the setup very close right from the start of the weekend. Less setup time means less time for the factories to exploit their advantage (an advantage obtained solely as a result of having more money to throw at the problem) over the independent teams.

WorldSBK in Argentina

Finally, there was a non-MotoGP announcement at the Termas De Rio Hondo circuit. On Saturday, Carmelo Ezpeleta and Daniel Carrera of Dorna, along with Sergio Uñac, the Governor of the Province of San Juan, and Orly Terranova of the OSD Group announced that they had signed a three-year agreement to hold World Superbikes at the Villicum Circuit, at Albardón, near San Juan, in the west of Argentina.

The circuit is currently under construction, and is due to be visited for homologation later in the year. If the circuit is approved, then the WorldSBK series will visit the track from 2018 onwards. Where it will fit in the calendar is still to be determined, but the most likely place in the schedule will be after the opening flyaway rounds in Australia and Thailand, or before the final round of the season in Qatar.

The reason for building the circuit where it is is because of its proximity to the Andes. It is situated beside Route 40, the main road which runs from north to south just east of the Andes, and is a tourist destination in itself. The track is also 550km from the Chilean capital Santiago, making it a likely destination for race fans from Chile, as well as Argentina.

The press release announcing the deal appears below:

Argentina prepares to host WorldSBK in 2018

Province of San Juan joins the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship Calendar

The Government of the Province of San Juan (Argentina), Dorna WSBK Organization and the OSD Group are pleased to announce the signing of a three-year agreement to host WorldSBK Rounds at the Villicum Circuit, which is currently under construction.

In the province of San Juan, near the city of Albardón the new Villicum Circuit is in the process of being built, which was designed by Argentine architect Leonardo Stella. Work began in October 2016 and will make Argentina the 26th country to host a Round of the world´s fastest production-based motorcycle series. Riders and fans will enjoy the action and excitement of a 4.2 kilometre track with 19 corners - 11 left and 8 right.

WorldSBK is expected to visit the circuit in 2018, as the Government of the Province of San Juan and OSD Group are hoping to have the track homologated by the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) later this year.

The region of San Juan has an outstanding history in motorcycle racing and motorsport in general. The world-famous Dakar Rally has passed through the province in recent years, and the El Zonda circuit continues to host racing events across the year.

The new circuit is located on the symbolic Route 40, a 5,000km road which stretches from the north to the south of Argentina, along the breathtaking Andes. Route 40 is a tourist attraction not only for motorsport fans, but for all travellers who go to discover the best landscapes in the country.

The Governor of the Province of San Juan, Sergio Uñac said that the new circuit "is a project which will position San Juan at the heart of the sport, as the best categories of motorcycling and the motoring world will discover a stunning circuit with The Villicum, creating an unbeatable thrill".

"As well as this," added Governor Uñac, "there will be a hotel nearby - the old La Laja hotel. We are also talking with interested parties to build a hotel in front of the racetrack, which is one of the necessities in order to put this racetrack the highest international level”.

Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna Group CEO, expressed his satisfaction at WorldSBK's arrival to South America for the first time in history. "Without doubt this is very good news. Knowing that Argentina will have a World Superbike Round is a solid step forward. The presence of the two of the most important world championships in motorbike racing in Argentina, reflects the passion of a country which has a vast and deep rooted history in motor sports."

Orly Terranova, CEO of OSD: "I am very pleased that the new Villicum Circuit - which has already received the first approval from the FIM - allows us to work with another world-class international event like WorldSBK. As well as this it provides us with a definite option of attracting other categories of motorsport. In addition we believe that this is the opportunity for Argentina to have one or more riders competing, as the category will be a great platform for Argentine and Latin American motorcycling. Undoubtedly, the new racetrack - located on the legendary Route 40 - will generate a positive impact in the Cuyo region, increasing the levels of tourism the province of San Juan has to offer.”

Daniel Carrera, Executive Director of WorldSBK said: "We are very proud that the government of San Juan selected WorldSBK to help develop the economic activity of the Circuit, and the province of San Juan. In recent years WorldSBK has been present in destinations around the world such as the United States, Thailand, Australia or Qatar, where events have been developed with great results. The Villicum Circuit is projected as a top-level facility, with an exciting track that will surely be welcomed by our paddock and all the fans of our sport in Argentina."

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I don't think fans lose anything by keeping Friday for set-up and Saturday for Q. If anything it is overhyped by the announcers. I prefer the teams spend more time trying to find the best race pace. Valentino clearly works throughout the weekend on solving his race pace problems. And by Sunday he is almost always competitive even if he has to start from the 4th row. I like that. I think they should all do that. With a rule change they will. 

Real shame for Brad Binder. KTM have got off to a great start in Moto2, and I'm sure he'd progress quite nicely this season, but having an injury like this must be so frustrating.

I imagine the team will have to bring in a sub in the mean time. Have heard one rumour about possibly using Mika Kallio, which wouldn't be a bad shout and part of the KTM family.

When I read the paragraph about the proposition of not having FP1 & 2 times counting toward qualifying I had an immediate thought for a reply.  Your next couple paragraphs pretty much were verbatim what my response was going to be.  Well, better written, but same sentiment.  I agree with the thought that more set up will spread the gap to the rich teams.  One of the reasons last year was so good (imho) was the unpredictability; weather, tires electronics.  Having less set up time keeps some of the unpredictability.


... and they want to change it?  In SBK they have taken to openly nobbling the faster guys with the mixed up grid, at least this way the rider/team can choose how much priority to to give to either qualy or race.  It's an aspect of race weekend tactics than needs to be done right if you want to win.  I hope they leave it alone.

Fair point David : the teams with more resources will probably be more advantaged to fine tune the bike set up. On the other hand the same applies when they crash : I bet the poorer teams would be glad to have the time of fix the bike without worrying to set a hot lap. Moreover Rossi is living proof that an entire army of engineers is still not enough to work out a proper setting....
So all in all I would not mind that Friday FPs are literally free practices. If the purpose of all this is fairness let's limit the number of engineers per team or even better let's freeze ECU performance

That is like freezing the suspension performance. It is just a set up. And each set up is different for each rider, each tire, each track and each condition..

The only way this makes sense is what they have done already. Single ECU.

Also I don't know why it is "fair" to punish factories willing to invest more into MotoGP who are finally the ones developing and building the bikes, the actual machines the independents are using. Making things easier for independents should only go so far, that the vital interest of factories isn't totally lost. And that is being able to make a difference with more effort (which usuall translates into money!) else why should they be in the championship at all? If they suddenly need to fight for 10th on a regular basis, they would soon leave the championship.

So let's not kid ourselfs. Manufacturers are the backbone of the series not independents. So either leave them enough room that they can make a difference with their financial might or they might leave sooner than many think.

If independents want to fight at the sharp end on a constant basis then a precondition is that they need to face the challenge of getting the money e.g. just like RB or McLaren do in F1, while at the same time always being at the mercy of a manufacturer who more likely than not is your competitor as well.

I can see such a FP/Qualifying rule change benefiting factory and satellite teams in different ways. It wouldn't be solely to the benefit of the factory teams. I'd bet KTM, and riders like Rabbat wouldn't complain about an extra 20 minutes per weekend of setup time. I think in the end the decision will be more about Dorna's bottom line than what makes racing sense. That doesn't really bother me too much. If Dorna doesn't make money, the racing will ultimately suffer anyway.

Leave the rules alone please.
I actually like the strategic element of weighing up race setup Vs grid position.
Would anyone actually put money against Rossi, Marquez or Vinales missing out on a podium on any given Sunday due to having to face the ignominy of QP1? I know i wouldn't.
As a somewhat experienced rider recently said, Sunday afternoons are all that matter.

Anything having to do with safety, especially if it is rider-driven, deserves immedate attention and, unless there are over-riding reasons to oppose, should be enacted. This is what the Safety Commission is for.  However, as a veteran of some twenty years in the commentary booth, I would point out that, before the current qualifying system was introduced, practice sessions, while important to the teams, were virtually meaningless to the fans. At present the first three sessions are intense and interesting because they "count" and the fourth is intended for fine-tuning the race setting. Changing this will only give additional advantage to the factory and satellite teams. I believe the current system is an excelent compromise between providing the teams with enough set-up time and offering TV viewers a relevant program on Friday and Saturday morning. If it ain´t broke, don´t fix it. 

Whilst I agree that only the hard core ever watched practice prior to the current situation, I'd also argue that outside of people attending the circuit, only the hard core watch FP1/FP2/FP3/FP4/WUP even now.

As per my above post also, factory and satellite teams already have advantages that will be even more significant (past telemetry, rider experience, better engineers, better supplier relationships, etc.) that will become even more powerful if everyone's testing time is restricted.

Whilst say, KTM are trying to get a baseline, HRC, Yamaha and Ducati already have a decade or more of experience at most tracks.  Cutting practice or otherwise artificially taking practice time away from generating a race setup will only strengthen THAT advantage.

Not sure i agree with the notion that more practice without pressure to bank a lap will favor the factories...

The top teams and riders will rise to the top, irrespective of the rules.  The top teams don't just have the advantage of better engineers to make better use of collected data, they have telemetry data going back decades, great relationships with third party suppliers, world champion rider coaches, etc., plus the best riders and engineers on the grid.

You can change the rules all you like, short of playing musical chairs with riders and race engineers prior to the event, the best guys will usually win.

Why shouldn't they have an advantage?  How is a team like say, KTM supposed to be able to compete, putting in a banker lap when they've had perhaps 1 hour of track time, ever, with a MotoGP bike?

I'd say leave FP1 and FP2 for setup, and leave FP3 for pre-qualifying.

As someone mentioned above, if there's no advantage to be gained by throwing time, money and engineering at the problem, there's no incentive for factory teams to compete, and we may as well go back to proddy racing.