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Mandalika Circuit To Be Partially Resurfaced Ahead Of MotoGP Race

The MotoGP paddock were extremely enthusiastic about their return to Indonesia. The series had long wanted to return to a country which is at the heart of the MotoGP fanbase in Southeast Asia. Once at Mandalika, the teams and riders loved the setting and the scenery, and were very positive about the layout of the track. It was fast, and it was fun.

They were less happy about the surface of the track. It was filthy on arrival, with mud and dust all over the track, and the riders were forced to make laps on the first day of the test to clean it up, creating a single racing line. Once clean, the track had plenty of grip.

However, that exposed a different problem. The surface was wearing very rapidly, especially in high acceleration and braking areas like the first and last corner. The aggregate was breaking up, pulling stones and stone chips out of the surface, and throwing them up into the faces and bodies of following riders. Pecco Bagnaia showed off a large welt on his arm, where he had been struck by a loose stone, Alex Marquez showed us a similar mark in his throat during his zoom debrief, and many riders, among them Fabio Quartararo, complained of having stones thrown up into their necks, especially.

The problem, according to specialists involved in track design, is the aggregate used in construction contained stones which are too soft. These stones were already crushed in the process of laying the surface, and the forces generated by MotoGP bikes were pulling these stones out of the surface and throwing them up into the path of the riders behind.

The issue wasn't unique to MotoGP. Now retired Ducati WorldSBK rider Chaz Davies noted on Twitter that they had suffered similar problems when the production series visited the track back in November last year.

In the Safety Commission held at Mandalika, the riders demanded action. Initially, they had asked for the race to be moved to July, giving the track enough time to be resurfaced, but that request was rejected. However, conditions were so severe, that something had to be done.

Today, the FIM announced that the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation, who are running the Mandalika project, have agreed to resurface part of the track from Turn 17 (the final corner) through to Turn 5. This is the area where the problems with stones were the worst. The resurfacing work is to be carried out before the Indonesian MotoGP due to be held on March 20th. In addition, the ITDC will oversee preparation of the entire surface, ensuring it is clean and in good enough shape to host a grand prix.

Four weeks is very short notice to resurface a track. A significant amount of effort will be needed to make it happen, but there is a lot of construction still happening at the site, as building on infrastructure in the region continues. That is also leading to disputes with local landowners, as farmers are being bought out of their properties, but the Indonesian system of 'Konsinyasi' means that disputes over purchase amounts leave them without land and without the money they are owed for significant periods of time. For farmers living close to subsistence levels, this has made life very difficult, with cases being highlighted in Indonesian media.

The lack of infrastructure is a problem in other ways too. Accommodation in the area is very limited, and the roads in the surrounding area are also still under construction. MotoGP needs to go to Indonesia, because of the outsized importance of the market for the sport. But there is still a lot of work to do before the area around the track can cope with the massive influx of people, including fans and team staff, that hosting a race involves.

The press release appears below:


FIM, Dorna and ITDC agree track improvements or Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit

The pre-season Official MotoGP™ Test at Pertamina Mandalika International Circuit saw the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship return to Indonesia for the first time in 25 years. The three days of track time were invaluable for the riders, teams and organisation, allowing all parties to gain experience at the new circuit before the inaugural Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia.

The three-day test has also given the organisation and governing body the opportunity to ensure the venue complies with MotoGP™ standards and assess any improvements necessary ahead of the track’s debut on the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship calendar.

The feedback from riders and teams regarding the layout of the track and its safety standards, including the extensive runoff areas of both tarmac and gravel, has been overwhelmingly positive.

During the test, two areas of improvement were identified, which are the cleanliness of the track surface and the excess of aggregate affecting parts of the circuit.

The FIM, which oversees track homologation, has been in communication with the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) regarding these necessary improvements, which are to be implemented a minimum of seven days before the inaugural Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia.

Circuit owner ITDC has agreed with the FIM’s assessment and requests, demonstrating their high level of support and commitment to the sport. All parties have reacted quickly and work towards these improvements is already underway, including the resurfacing of part of the track.

The circuit will be resurfaced from the section before Turn 17 until after Turn 5. The venue will also prepare for the Grand Prix by employing world leading technology to ensure the entirety of the surface meets MotoGP™ standards.

The FIM and Dorna would like to thank the ITDC for their incredible support and prompt reaction. All parties would also like to assure our Indonesian fans, and all those around the world, that the 2022 Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia will take place on the planned date, and MotoGP™ is very much looking forward to returning to Lombok.

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Honda Confirm Marc Marquez Will Be At Sepang Test After Treatment "A Complete Success"

After a few days riding a motorcycle on track again, Marc Marquez has been passed fit to ride at the Sepang MotoGP test on February 5th and 6th. The Spaniard underwent a medical check on Monday, January 24th and was given the go ahead to ride.

What is most remarkable about the press release from the Repsol Honda team is the very positive language used. The treatment route chosen, a conservative route avoiding surgery and using exercises and passive treatment instead, is described as having been "a complete success". This suggests Marquez will be at 100% fitness with regards to his vision, with only his shoulder a slight concern.

Marquez will ride the radically redesigned 2022-spec Honda RC213V at the Sepang test, alongside teammate Pol Espargaro.

The Repsol Honda press release appears below:


Repsol Honda Team confirm Marc Marquez for Sepang Test

Marc Marquez has been cleared to make his on-track return with the new Honda RC213V and the Repsol Honda Team at the Sepang Test on February 05, 2022.

Throughout the winter Marquez has had continual medical checks and consultations to monitor his diplopia. In recent weeks the improvements in his condition saw his medical team deem his recovery sufficient to return to training on two wheels. The #93 first returned to the motocross track before trying the Honda RC213V-S in Portimao and a Honda CBR600RR in Aragon.

Last Monday, January 24, Marquez underwent another medical check which reconfirmed that the treatment has been a complete success and the eight-time World Champion is in a suitable condition to ride a MotoGP bike.

Therefore, it has been decided that Marquez will start his 2022 campaign at the first official MotoGP Test in Sepang before heading to Mandalika, Indonesia the following week. This will be Marquez’s first time back on a MotoGP machine since winning the 2021 Emilia Romagna GP ahead of Pol Espargaro.

The Repsol Honda Team will head to the first test of the new season at full strength with Marquez alongside Pol Espargaro, who enters his second year with the team.

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Hiroshi Aoyama Looking To Launch MotoE Team To Support Asian Ride

Former 250cc world champion and Honda Team Asia manager Hiroshi Aoyama is now seriously considering starting up a new project: the MotoE World Cup. In contrast to the Moto2 and Moto3 teams he manages that are backed up by Honda, Hiro is trying to form this new project as a completely personal scheme.

“As you have seen, Asian riders recently started coming to Europe and taking part in the world championship races one after another. On the other hand, unfortunately, the number of seats available for them in the world championships is quite limited currently. Therefore, after just a few years’ participation, some riders had to give up fighting in the world championship and go back to their home countries. It always feels like a great pity to me that they had to miss their opportunities and let their experiences go. If there were some more seats available for them in some classes and they were able to remain in the world championships, they can stay in Europe and keep on improving their skills by fighting with top riders. Although MotoE is a World Cup, subsidiary to the world championships in the regulation, it is almost similar to them in effect. That is the reason why I had an idea to organize a brand-new team in MotoE alongside Honda Team Asia.”

However, he had to face a contradiction. As their names show, Hiro Aoyama’s managing Moto2/Moto3 teams are strongly backed up by Honda, while the MotoE World Cup competes under a different manufacturer; until 2022 with Energica, and 2023 onwards with Ducati. Hence, if he wants to organize a new MotoE project, it will not be under the Honda wing.

“But, that doesn’t mean I have to give up this plan. I think we can make it happen if we can finance it. Now I’m looking for sponsors to start up this MotoE team as my personal project, say, something like ‘Aoyama Racing MotoE Team’.”

Looking to 2023

It may be a vague idea at the moment, Hiro said he has already started talking with many people to be in time for the 2023 season.

“Yes, I have started speaking with people concerned here and there, including Carmelo (Ezpeleta). The motorcycle manufacturer changes for the 2023 season, so I think that will be the best timing to launch a new MotoE team. Even if we hurry and get ready for the 2022 season, the motorcycle will be eligible only for one season so that we will have to renew the bike and everything for the following season. And what's more, the slots for the 2022 entrants already seem to be full.

When I conceived this idea, 2022 could have been the target to start. But haste makes waste. Now we have one more year to prepare the things more carefully and deliberately. First of all, what we have to do is securing a solid basis, then we will be able to start and move on.

Anyway, it is not an easy thing to begin something in the world championship stage. I don’t want to make it a ‘make-or-break,’ ‘sink-or-swim’ project. We shouldn’t start it until the time we are ready for it. Although I know the regulation allows us to line up two bikes, it will be very difficult for the personal team, so that I would be very happy if we could start with a one bike team, to be honest.”

Show me the money

No matter how many lofty ambitions and sublime aspirations you have, all you need is money to fulfill it. And it is hefty sum to do it on the world championship stage. You can do nothing with only the money in your pocket.

“If you need 100% for your budget and you have 70% or 80% of it, it would be too uncertain to start the project. But if 90% or 95% of it is sorted, just maybe I can make up the remaining 5% or 10%. Everything depends on it, so I cannot say anything specifically, for now. Only one thing for sure is that I have a will to launch a new MotoE team in the future.

Having said that, it is very tough to negotiate with prospected sponsors and investors just by myself. So, now I’m asking some people working in the agencies if they can promote and gather sponsors. I am quite serious about launching this MotoE team and using my knowledge and experience in order to give more opportunities to Asian riders in Europe. If there is someone who has a vision and is willing to support Asian riders competing on the world stage, I won't hesitate to collaborate and work with them to make it happen.”

Hard sell

Since the pandemic is still covering the whole planet, the economic climate in the world in the short term seems to be uncertain for now. Given the nature of this pandemic and the many agendas we are facing in the twenty-first century, the motorsports community is confronted by some tough challenges.

“Everyone is struggling to come through these tough years, especially in these Covid situations, and we are not the exception, for sure. An eco-friendly championship doesn’t necessarily mean sponsor-friendly for the teams. It is not easy to fund the budget to launch a new team, but you know, they say ‘impossible is nothing.’ And you know me, I am the guy who never gives up easily!

The auto industry and motorcycle industry will be shifting from combustion engines to more carbon-neutral propulsion, and under this mega-trend, I believe that the MotoE World Cup will continue in the future, so I want to organize my own ‘Aoyama Racing Team’ in this championship. And I also think that Asia and Asian riders are crucial for the future of motorcycle sports. So, I’m ready to work hard to make them real.”


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MotoGP News Round Up: Miller Misses Ducati Launch, COTA Resurfaced, Spa Upgraded, Marquez Rides Again, And Rossi's In-Depth Interviews

As the start of the MotoGP season grows closer, the news cycle is starting to ramp up. Websites are starting to be able to report on things that are actually happening, rather than desperately thrashing around looking for filler content. So here's a round up of the latest developments in MotoGP.

The first Covid casualty of 2022

Jack Miller took to social media last night to announce that he had unfortunately tested positive for the coronavirus. "As you can tell, I'm still here in Australia due to testing positive for covid. I'm currently unable to travel, and will miss the team presentation." He was not suffering any symptoms, he emphasized. "I just want to let you all know I'm doing fine, no symptoms, continuing training on the farm."

Miller was due to travel back to Europe to take part in Ducati's team launch, to be streamed online on January 28th, before heading to Sepang for the first test of the year on February 5th and 6th. But with Miller absent from Europe, Ducati have instead decided to reschedule their team launch to February 7th, the Monday after the MotoGP test has finished.

Miller's positive test is unlikely to prevent him from traveling to Malaysia. With two weeks to present a negative test, his odds of being at the Sepang test are excellent. But it is a salutary lesson in the challenges the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks face in 2022.

Although the omicron variant which has become predominant appears to have less severe outcomes, it is far more infectious, even among the vaccinated, which covers almost every single member of the MotoGP paddock. The chances of others testing positive for the coronavirus remain high, and that will restrict travel.

Launch season

The Ducati launch may have been postponed, next week will still herald the start of team launch season. On Monday, January 24th, the RNF Yamaha team of Andrea Dovizioso and Darryn Binder will be presented from Verona, home of the team's sponsor. That presentation will be streamed via the team's YouTube channel starting at 4pm CET.

Three days later, on Thursday, January 27th, it is the turn of KTM. Both the Red Bull Factory team of Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira and the KTM Tech3 squad of Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner will be showing off their new machines. This will also be streamed on YouTube, starting at 10am CET.

The following week, on Wednesday February 2nd, the Pramac Ducati team of Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin will present their 2022 bikes. More details when they become available.

On Friday 4th February, the day before the first MotoGP test starts at Sepang, the Monster Energy Yamaha team of Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli will hold their team launch at the Sepang International Circuit. That will likewise be streamed live, and will start at 8:30am CET.

Later that day, the Suzuki Ecstar presentation is to be held at the same venue, with Joan Mir and Alex Rins showing off the bike they will be racing.

On Monday, February 7th, the day after the test, the factory Ducati Lenovo team of Jack Miller and Pecco Bagnaia will present the 2022 livery, with that launch scheduled for 4pm CET, and also streamed on Ducati's website and social media channels.

A day later, on Tuesday, February 8th, Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro will launch the Repsol Honda team, again online, although there are no details fixed yet. And on Wednesday 9th, the LCR Honda team of Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Marquez follows suit. Nakagami's launch will be at 10:30am CET, Alex Marquez at noon.

Fixing Texas

After the Grand Prix of the Americas at Austin, Texas last year, the riders were unanimous. Unless the track was fixed, especially the sections from Turn 2 through Turn 10, MotoGP could not return. The bumps were too bad. The good news came last November, in the form of a promise to fix at least the sections in that first half of the track.

That work has now begun, and it is being carried out on a much larger scale than at first anticipated. Turns 2 through 10 – the long series of turns starting from the bottom of the hill after Turn 1 to the hairpin at the start of the back straight - are being resurfaced, along with Turns 12 through 16 – the stadium section after the back straight.

In addition, work is being undertaken to tackle the substrate, which is prone to subsidence. A reinforced concrete slab has been laid underneath the section from Turns 2 to 10, in the hope of staving off a return of the bumps for as long as possible.

The work should make a huge improvement to the track, as well as make it much safer. It should also ensure that the US round of MotoGP remains at the Circuit of the Americas for the foreseeable future.

Future perfect

There was more good news on the track front, with the Belgian circuit of Spa-Francorchamps announcing they are in the middle of a massive upgrade to the track. Work is being undertaken to modify the circuit at several points to add run off and swap hard standing for gravel in a bid to make the track safe for motorcycles.

The work is primarily aimed at preparing the return of the Endurance World Championship for the 24 Hours of Spa, scheduled for June 4th and 5th of this year. But the hope is that with a few additional changes, the legendary grand prix circuit can be made safe enough to see a return of MotoGP to the track.

The last time Spa hosted a motorcycling grand prix was in 1990, when Wayne Rainey beat Jean-Philippe Ruggia. Spa still holds the record for the highest average speed in grand prix racing, with Barry Sheene's lap of 220.720 km/h set in 1977. The track has since seen significant changes, making an improvement on that record unlikely.

The track layout is not the only change being made. Major upgrades are also being made to Spa-Francorchamps' aging infrastructure, improving facilities for all the classes that race there, including F1.

Back at the grindstone

After jumping on a Honda RC213V-S at Portimão for the first time since crash while riding an enduro bike, Marc Marquez was back on track again this week. This time, he was at the Motorland Aragon circuit.

Marquez was not a 1000cc road bike this time, however. Instead, he was on a Honda CBR600RR. That may seem a curious choice, but there are advantages to choosing a smaller bike. The FIM Grand Prix Regulations limit riders to practicing on road bikes with minimal modifications, if those bikes are the same capacity as the bikes they race with. In the case of MotoGP riders, that is 1000cc bikes, for Moto2 riders, 765cc machines (which basically means Triumph triples), and for Moto3 riders, 250cc bikes.

However, there are no rules for practice on bikes which are not the same capacity as the bikes they race. By choosing to ride a Honda CBR600RR, Marquez is allowed to make much bigger changes to the bike. Those changes are visible, even from the single photo posted on social media by Marquez. There is a full-size race radiator and cooler installed, much larger than the items on the stock bike. The bike uses Brembo calipers instead of the stock Tokicos, what look like non-standard front forks, and totally different clip ons.

The advantage of practicing on what looks to be either a superstock or supersport spec Honda CBR600RR is that the feel of the bike is much closer to proper race bike than a lightly modified road bike. That appears to be what Marquez is chasing. It is also a sign of just how determined he is going into the 2022 season.

Doctor talk

As his career progressed, Valentino Rossi's media engagements became fewer and fewer. Getting a one-on-one interview with Rossi as a print or website journalist was nigh on impossible. Even his TV interviews were growing shorter and less frequent.

So it is something of a surprise and a pleasure to see that, now that he has retired, the MotoGP legend has given a huge interview to a veteran American sports journalist, Graham Bensinger. Bensinger spent a day with Rossi, touring the VR46 headquarters, and the VR46 flat track ranch.

The interview covers a huge amount of ground, and is available to paying subscribers of Bensinger's channel. A large number of segments, totaling over 50 minutes, have been posted to YouTube and are freely available without paying.

In those segments, Rossi talks about the VR46 ranch, his relationship with his partner Francesca Sofia Novello and the prospect of becoming a father, his retirement, and how Covid-19 affected that. He discusses his rivalry with Jorge Lorenzo, his motivation for racing and the thrill it gives him, and the loss of his friend Marco Simoncelli. He also talks about his tax situation, and the shock at learning he owed the Italian tax authorities €112 million, and how he ended up ensuring he could return to live in Italy.

The segments, mostly between 2 and 8 minutes long, make for easily digestible chunks of motorcycling history, and Rossi speaks freely and frankly about his past and his career. Well worth watching. The entire series is available as a YouTube playlist, and the first of the videos appears below.

Bike news

Not strictly MotoGP news, but MotoMatters.com news. Listeners to the Paddock Pass Podcast probably know that I have spent the last 9 months or so looking at a new motorcycle, to replace my aging 2009 BMW R1200GS. I finally bit the bullet on a new bike in November of last year, and picked it up in December. You can read about the entire adventure over on my personal website.


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Marc Marquez Expects To Be Ready For Sepang MotoGP Test

Marc Marquez completed 65 laps of the Portimão circuit on Sunday, after his first return to riding a street bike since his training accident in October 2021, which saw him suffer a concussion and diplopia. After a long recovery period, Marquez rode a motocross bike last week, and told the media during the HRC motorsports launch on Friday that he hoped to do a test at a Grand Prix track soon. Soon turned out to be Sunday, and the Grand Prix track turned out to be Portimão.

After initial posts on social media, today, the Repsol Honda team issued an official press release with details of the test, as well as a video, in which Marc Marquez gives his impression of the test. The news is very positive: Marquez had no issues with his vision, despite riding at over 300km/h, and felt happy and comfortable on the bike.

Marquez did notice all of the time he has spent off the bike, the statement said, feeling that he still had some way to go in his physical preparation to be ready to ride a MotoGP bike again. He will spend the next few weeks training on a motorcycle more often, and intends to travel to Sepang for the MotoGP test there on February 5th and 6th.

The video and press release from the Repsol Honda team appear below:


Marc Marquez completes positive track test in Portimao

Days after returning to motorcycle riding on the motocross track, Marc Marquez’s recovery took another step forward with a full day of riding the Honda RC213V-S in Portugal.

For the first time since winning the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on October 24, 2021, Marc Marquez was back on a closed race circuit as he continued to assess the development and improvement of his diplopia. Completing a total of 65 laps over the course of the day, Marquez and his team were able to further evaluate his current condition in the lead up to the 2022 MotoGP World Championship.

The eight-time World Champion was first and foremost overjoyed to experience the thrill of riding again after his forced break. Marquez reported no major concerns with his diplopia during the day and was left pleased and optimistic with the day’s work. Attention now turns to the first pre-season test at the Sepang International Circuit in early February, Marquez working to be fit and ready to return to his Repsol Honda Team RC213V.

Marc Marquez

“I am feeling very happy, first to be back on a bike at the track and also because we were able to confirm the sensations I had on a motocross bike here with the road bike. It’s a great feeling, a feeling of relief because when I was riding, I didn’t have any discomfort with my vision. Since I haven’t ridden in so long, I did notice some physical areas where I’m missing a little bit but this is just because I have not been able to have my usual pre-season. There’s a margin to improve but the positive and the fundamental take away from this test was to reconfirm the feeling we had when we first got on the motocross bike and to enjoy the good feeling of speed. I have completed an intense day of riding with long runs, I am very happy with the results. We have two weeks until testing begins in Sepang so I will take the opportunity to intensify my physical preparation and train on the bike.”

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Marc Marquez Back On Track: Rides An RC213V-S At Portimão

As he announced at Honda's global motorsport launch, Marc Marquez has taken to a Grand Prix track once again. Together with brother Alex, he rode a Honda RC213V-S street machine at the Portimão circuit in Portugal. Though HRC have yet to issue a press release, both Marquez brothers and the Repsol Honda team posted photos and a video on Social Media.

Though it is premature to read anything into the posts, the positive tone would appear to suggest that the day went well, at least. The aim of riding a fast road bike on a GP track was to assess how his vision was at high speed, Marquez told us on Friday. He also said that he would discuss how the test went with the doctors treating him before making a decision on how to proceed from there.

A press release from Honda with more details should follow in the next day or two.

 

 

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Marc Marquez Back On An MX Bike - Recovery Progressing Well

There has been a huge step forward in Marc Marquez' recovery from diplopia, the double vision he suffered as a result of a crash riding enduro. After consulting with the doctor treating his eye condition, the Repsol Honda rider was given the go ahead to ride a motorcycle again. Using the lessons of his previous bout of double vision - after the monster crash in practice in Sepang 2011 - Marquez was cautious in his choice of venue, deciding to ride a motocross bike at his local track in Lleida, Spain. In 2012, he had first ridden a bike at Alcarras, at a track shared with BSB teams. News of his ride quickly leaked, something which was less of a concern at the MX track in Lleida.

In the video issued by with the press release by Honda, Marquez can be seen to be riding with a great deal of freedom, and does not appear to be holding back. The press release describes him as being "more than optimistic" about his return to two wheels, with the next step for the Spaniard to try riding a bike on an asphalt circuit. There was no mention of when that might happen.

A further positive sign is that Marquez will now appear in the Honda press conference to be held on Friday morning, where HRC will announce their plans for the coming season across several championships. 

There is no news on whether Marquez will be fit in time for the Sepang test, but at least he is on course to race during the 2022 season. His real level of fitness and ability will only be apparent once he starts riding a MotoGP bike again.

The press release from the Repsol Honda team appears below:


Marc Marquez back on a motorcycle as his recovery advances

Marc Marquez underwent a medical examination with Dr. Sánchez Dalmau last Monday to analyse the situation of his diplopia. The ophthalmologist confirmed a clear improvement in the vision of the eight-time World Champion.

With this progress, the Repsol Honda Team rider received authorization to ride a motorcycle and motocross, the most demanding discipline possible in the world of two wheels, was chosen by Marquez and his team. After a three-month absence, the Spanish rider returned to riding at the Ponts Circuit (Lleida). After several runs his sensations and feelings on the bike were more than optimistic.

The next step for Marquez will be to ride on a paved racetrack.

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MotoGP Grand Prix Commission Add 355mm Discs, Tighten Up Aero Rules, Injury Assessment

With Christmas nearly upon us, MotoGP's rule-making body, the Grand Prix Commission, met to adjust a few rules for the 2022 season and beyond. Among a host of confirmations and minor adjustments, there were one or two small but significant changes, tightening up important parts of the rules for MotoGP.

First the minor matters. The changes in age limits were confirmed, ahead of the shift to having a minimum age of 18 across all three grand prix classes in 2023, and the qualification limit was tightened from 107% to 105%. Given how much more competitive all three classes are, and how tight the fields are, this will have very little effect, though it will put higher demands on substitute riders.

To give an idea of just how much 105% is, the average lap time for the vast majority of circuits is between 1'30 and 1'50, so the average lap is around 1'40, or 100 seconds. So the qualification limit has been cut from 7 seconds behind the fastest rider to 5 seconds behind the fastest rider. It has been a very long time since anyone fell foul of the 107% rule, and had the rule been 105% for qualifying, the last victim it would have claimed would have been replacement rider Christophe Ponsson, who substituted for the injured Tito Rabat at Misano back in 2018.

Anchors away

There are new rules on brakes, which point to the increasing importance of braking in grand prix motorcycle racing. In MotoGP, the largest available disc size has been increased from 340mm to 355mm. That means there will now be three permitted sizes of front brake discs: 320, 340, and 355mm.

The larger maximum disc size is clearly a response to the braking issues bikes have shown at circuits like the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg. The memory of Maverick Viñales' horrendous crash at Turn 1 in Austria in 2020 is still fresh in many minds. Brembo's new calipers went some way to addressing that, but as riders demand more of braking, more energy needs to be dissipated, and the only solution is to use larger discs and more carbon.

This underlines just how important braking has become in motorcycle racing. In the pursuit of performance, braking and corner entry are the points where real gains are being made. The 800 years taught factories a lot about acceleration, and how to control it with electronics, and the introduction of aerodynamics and ride height devices have taken the place of electronics in assisting acceleration. The focus of most MotoGP manufacturers is now on corner entry, and improved chassis dynamics is putting more stress on Michelin's front tire, and allowing the riders to brake harder. Braking comes from friction, and the energy generated by that friction needs to be absorbed and dissipated, if brake fluids and braking materials are to remain within their operating temperature ranges.

It's not just MotoGP either: the rules have now also been changed to allow cooling ducts to be added to the Moto2 machines. There, too, corner entry is a battle ground, and brake calipers and discs need cooling.

Cracking down

In addition to the brakes, there is a general tightening of the rules, as the GPC attempt to close loopholes. From 2022, factories will have to included 3D CAD drawings or samples of their aero packages to the Technical Director. Previously, detailed drawings or samples were sufficient. 3D CAD drawings contain far more information beyond just the dimensions of the aerodynamic wings and protuberances. That should allow Dorna's technical staff to assess whether or not materials will deflect under wind pressure, for example, an issue which was at one time prevalent in F1.

Ride-height devices are another innovation where the scrutineers needed to catch up. The GPC also approved a new process for evaluating whether a ride-height device is legal or not. As more and more manufacturers have ride-height devices which operate automatically on corner exit, there have been questions raised over what exactly is legal and what is not. The new procedure is aimed at cracking down on attempts to circumvent the ban on devices which do not operate using only the changing attitude of the bike as a trigger.

There is also an intriguing entry in the Moto3 regulations. From 2022, the wiring loom, fuel pump assembly, and pressure regulator have been designated as a performance part. This means they must be homologated by the Technical Director, and made available to all teams once approved. Though we cannot know for certain, this may be connected to the remarkable speed of the Leopard Hondas. There were many question marks over where their superior speed came from, over both the KTMs and the other Honda Moto3 machines. This change could point to where Leopard had found an advantage.

Injury assessment

Perhaps the most significant part of the rule changes announced by the GPC concerns the changes to the way in which injury is assessed. Once again engendered by Marc Marquez, perhaps, the assessment of riders returning from injury will be far stricter. Though the details were not included in the press release, it explicitly named head injuries, concussion, abdominal and chest injuries, and fractures and breaks of a more complex character than just simple breaks.

Directly related to this, the GPC has decided that the helmets of riders who are taken to the medical center following a crash will also be more thoroughly examined, while any rider assessed with concussion or another head injury will have their helmets sent to the FIM laboratory at the University of Zaragoza for further study.

Both of these changes are aimed both at understanding how injuries affect riders, and how protective equipment affects the injuries received. There have been several recent instances of riders coming back from injury more quickly than some thought was sensible, with questions over a rider's ability to control a MotoGP machine. The fitness tests seem to be arbitrary and too easy to pass.

By making the medical assessments harsher and more thorough, this takes some of the decision away from  the riders and the teams, and puts more emphasis on the medical side. This should make it harder for riders to just grit their teeth through a quick fitness test and handle a brief flash of pain, which is an unrealistic way of assessing how an injured rider will hold up over a 45 minute race.

No more alternative facts

Finally, the GPC introduced a new type of official, called a Judge of Facts. The idea is to hand the assessment of certain infringements such as jump starts and exceeding track limits to these Judges of Facts, and make their judgment final and put it beyond appeal. The job of the Judge of Fact is to assess the evidence from the high-speed cameras and track limit sensors to judge whether an infraction has occurred, and impose a penalty where needed. Teams and riders will not be able to appeal their judgments. That may not put an end to the complaining, but it will put the result of any decision beyond question.

The press release containing the minutes of the Grand Prix Commission appears below:


FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decisions of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Paul Duparc (FIM), Herve Poncharal (IRTA), Lin Jarvis (Yamaha – MSMA) and Paolo Ciabatti (Ducati – MSMA) in electronic meetings held during November and December 2021, made the following decisions:

Sporting Regulations

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY

Qualification for the Race

In all classes the rider must achieve a time at least equal to 105% of the time recorded by the fastest rider in the same session in any of the FP or QP sessions. (Previously 107%).

Minimum Ages

The Commission ratified the previously announced changes to minimum ages for participation. Licences for riders are issued only when the minimum age has been attained as below:

  • Moto3: 16 years (18 years in 2023)
  • Moto2: 16 years (18 years in 2023)
  • MotoGP: 18 years

In the Moto3 class, an exemption applies to the winner of the FIM Moto3 Junior World Championship or the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup to compete in the Moto3 class of the FIM World Championship Grand Prix as a contracted, wild card or substitute/replacement rider even if the rider has not reached the minimum age for the class (however a minimum age of 15 years in 2022, 16 years in 2023, then 17 years in 2024 will apply). In order to ensure a smooth transition, an exception will be granted to the riders who started in the 2022 Moto3 World Championship at the age of 16 so that they can continue with the 2023 Moto3 World Championship. For Moto2 and Moto3 substitute or wild card riders in 2022, the minimum age is 17 years.

Technical Regulations

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY

MotoGP Class

A procedure for checking machines equipped with passive ride height systems was approved.

Previously teams were required to deliver to the Technical Director, at the first event of the season, samples or detailed drawings of their aero body parts. For 2022 machines teams will now be required to provide samples or full 3D CAD models of these parts. Homologated aero body parts from 2021 machines, still used in 2022, will continue to be checked as per current procedures.

Following a request from Brembo, supported by MSMA, the following regulations will now apply to brake dimensions and packages.

Carbon brake discs must be one of the permitted sizes for outside diameter, which are: 320mm, 340mm and 355mm.

At certain circuits, for safety reasons, the use of 340mm or 355mm carbon brake discs is mandatory for the race, if declared Dry by the Race Director.

The circuits currently listed for mandatory minimum size 340mm brake discs are: Motegi (Japan), Spielberg (Austria) and Buriram (Thailand).

At these circuits either 340mm or 355mm discs may be used.

There are no restrictions on brakes disc sizes in a race declared Wet.

To reflect these changes there will now be two alternative brake packages defined in the regulations which must be supplied at a maximum cost of €80,000.

  Option 1 (Current) Option 2 (New)
Calipers 3 left + 3 right 2 left + 2 right
Master Cylinder 3 3
Carbon Disc 10 10
Pads 28 32

Moto2 Class

It will be permitted to add ducts to the front fender for the sole purpose of cooling the brake system and discs. All ducts must be pre-approved before being used on track and the decision of the Technical Director will be final.

Moto3 Class

The following items will now be designated as Performance Parts and must be homologated:

Complete motorcycle wiring loom (including wiring connections to airbox, dashboard, throttle body, handlebar switch panel and kill switch).

Complete fuel pump assembly from fuel pump to throttle body (including all connectors and hoses).

Pressure Regulator.

Riders Safety Equipment

The only purpose of any part of the rider’s race suit, boots and gloves should be to ensure that the rider is protected in an incident. Therefore, any part of the equipment that is deemed to be purely for the purpose of aiding rider’s aero effect is not permitted. The decision of the Technical Director will be final when determining what constitutes aero only.

Medical Regulations

Medical Fitness to Race

The Commission approved a number of new regulations concerning the medical assessment conducted to permit return to competition.

Specifically, there are new requirements on evidence that must be considered when reviewing recovery from head injury and concussion, abdominal/thoracic injury and musculoskeletal injuries, (such as fractures requiring surgery, compound or complex fractures).

In case of doubt, the CMO, the MotoGP Medical Director and the FIM Medical Officer can request further opinion on the reports and evidence provided to determine the status of the rider (fit or unfit).

Rider Helmets

The helmets of all riders taken to the medical centre for assessment following a crash must be retained by the medical personnel or CMO for control by the Technical Director or Technical Stewards before being returned to the rider or the team manager.

In cases of head injury including concussion or loss of consciousness, unless a specific provision of a national law advises otherwise, the helmet must be forwarded to the FIM Laboratory at the University of Zaragoza for expert examination and non-destructive analysis.

The helmet manufacturer will be notified of the exact tests and has the right to approve or refuse. They will be able to attend the analysis carried out in this laboratory. After inspection, the helmet can be returned to the rider, team, or manufacturer.

Disciplinary Regulations

A new position was approved for those persons involved in the assessment of regulation infractions, for example, jump starts, track limits, etc. Such persons will henceforth be referred to as Judges of Facts. No appeal may be lodged against a decision of the Judges of Facts on matters within their competence.

It was confirmed that information on protests and appeals plus Decisions of the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel taken during track activities (practice and races), may be communicated on monitors as well as on official notice boards. Such communications on public screens are considered valid notification.

A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed on:

https://www.fim-moto.com/en/sports/view/fim-world-championship-grand-pri...

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HRC Update On Marc Marquez - "Adequate Progress"

The Repsol Honda Team have issued a press release on the condition of Marc Marquez. According to the press release, Marquez is "progressing adequately" in his recovery from the bout of diplopia, or double vision, suffered as a result of a training crash at the end of October. The press release states that doctors have decided to proceed with the "conservative treatment plan", and that Marquez is doing physical training to prepare for the 2022 season.

The press release wording is carefully neutral. Reading between the lines, the news is neither good nor bad. Hope of a quick recovery has presumably been abandoned, but Marquez' vision is slowly improving. The "conservative treatment plan" the press release speaks of refers to following a treatment of physical therapy to try to fix the problem, and trying to avoid the need for surgery. The fact that Marquez has resumed physical training is good, but that is all gym work, and will not include riding motorcycles, such as flat track or motocross.

The next update we might expect will be some time in the middle of January, when it will be clearer whether Marquez will be able to attend the Sepang MotoGP test or not.

That, of course, presumes the Sepang MotoGP test will go ahead as planned. Dorna currently have a protocol in place with the Malaysian government to keep the MotoGP paddock isolated in a bubble, in special hotels. However, with the omicron variant spreading across the globe, Malaysia is introducing new restrictions on travel from some countries. As last winter, much is still up in the air.

The HRC press release appears below:


Marc Marquez progresses adequately with diplopia diagnosis

The Repsol Honda Team rider, who last October was diagnosed with an episode of diplopia after suffering a fall while training for the Portuguese GP, has continued periodic visits to his trusted ophthalmologist to assess the evolution of his vision over the past two months. During these reviews the progress made has been deemed favorable and as a result Marquez will continue with a conservative treatment plan for the next few weeks.

Marc Marquez will continue to undergo periodic reviews with Dr. Sánchez Dalmau during the coming weeks alongside the conservative treatment plan. The situation does not prevent the rider from Cervera from continuing his physical training plan to prepare himself physically for a new season.

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Razlan Razali Forced To Issue Apology For Statements On Petronas Split

Razlan Razali, Team Principal of the Petronas Sepang Racing Team until December 31st, and after that, team boss of the new RNF Racing Team which takes its place, has been forced to issue an apology to the Malaysian petroleum giant Petronas. In October and November, Razali gave a couple of frank and openhearted interviews to the German-language publication Speedweek, in which he explained the background to the split with Petronas and the search for a new team.

The two interviews covered a lot of ground, including details of the split between Razali and Johan Stigefelt, who had shared leadership of the team from the beginning, and his regret at having signed Valentino Rossi after a strong start to the 2020 season for the Italian. He also talked about how he declined the first offer made by Petronas, with a reduced budget, and how he regretted having turned that down.

The interview which caused the trouble, however, was the one in which Razali delved into the details of the split with Petronas. The SRT team boss explained how the negotiations with Petronas had gone, and appeared to blame staff changes in Petronas' marketing department for the decision to withdraw sponsorship for the team.

This has not gone down well with Petronas, which wields considerable political power in Malaysia. As a result, Razali has been forced to issue an apology for the interviews he gave. In a statement, issued yesterday, the RNF team boss said that he sincerely regretted "the outcome of how the articles were written and the impact they have received. It was never my intention to create any friction between myself and the parties involved. With that, I apologize if the parties mentioned by these journalists are offended in any way."

How that will impact Petronas' further involvement in MotoGP – as title sponsor for the Malaysian GP at Sepang, and as official fuel supplier to the Moto2 and Moto3 classes – remains to be seen. One of the questions highlighted by Razali was the fact that Petronas were dropping his team, but not pulling out of the sport entirely.

Below is Razali's press release:


MEDIA STATEMENT FROM RAZLAN RAZALI, TEAM PRINCIPAL OF PETRONAS SEPANG RACING TEAM (PSRT) ON SPEEDWEEK.COM ARTICLE

RAZLAN RAZALI, TEAM PRINCIPAL OF PETRONAS SEPANG RACING TEAM

In reference to several online news article published in regards to the discontinuation of PSRT’s title partner, Razlan Razali, Team Principal of the PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team responded.

“I sincerely regret on the outcome of how the articles were written and the impact they have received. It was never my intention to create any friction between myself and the parties involved. With that, I apologise if the parties mentioned by these journalists are offended in any way. We have mutually agreed that the partnership have reached its purpose and objectives and given the economic situation globally due to the pandemic, I respect the decision made by the title partner to discontinue with the team. The team together with its title partner have achieved and accomplished so much in the three years of our collaboration and I thank our partner for the commitment and support given as we concluded on a positive note at the last race in Valencia.”

AZHAN SHAFRIMAN HANIF, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF SEPANG INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT (SIC)

“The said articles do not express the views or opinions of SIC as the team owner, and neither are shared, supported or endorsed in any manner. We respect PETRONAS’ decision to conclude the title partnership and stand firmly that the separation was mutual and importantly, amicably agreed. We would like to thank PETRONAS for their constant support throughout the partnership.”

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