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Marc Marquez Ruled Out Of Mandalika MotoGP Race With Concussion

After a massive highside during warm up for the Mandalika MotoGP race, Marc Marquez has been ruled unfit to race. The Repsol Honda rider had the rear of his RC213V come round at him at Turn 7, before spitting him off in the biggest highside seen in MotoGP for a very long time. Marquez was clearly shaken, but got up and walked away.

Marquez was taken to a local hospital where no broken bones were found, but it was clear Marquez had taken a bang to the head. After examination by Dr Charte and the circuit doctors, and consultation with the team, Marquez was ruled unfit due to a possible concussion. Marquez will undergo a period of observation of 12 to 24 hours, before being allowed to return home.

Whether the crash will have any long-term consequences remains to be seen. Marquez was just starting to emerge from a long period of convalescence from injury, from the arm he broke at Jerez to the double vision he suffered when he banged his head in a training crash at the end of last year. Marquez has two weeks to recover ahead of the next MotoGP round, at Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina.

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Pandemic Fallout: Piero Taramasso Explains How MotoGP Bike Development Delayed Introduction Of New Front Tire To 2024

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic threw a spanner into the works for MotoGP in all sorts of ways. In response to the pandemic, the MSMA decided on an engine and aerodynamics freeze for 2020 and 2021, to limit costs in a time of uncertainty.

That went a long way to restraining costs, but as the world adapted to the pandemic, and it became clear that a global economic crisis had been averted, development budgets started to rise again. Even more so when people started using the money that travel restrictions prevented them from spending on vacations to buy new motorcycles and accessories.

With engine development frozen, MotoGP engineers turned their minds to finding advantages in other areas. Factories went all in on the holeshot devices which had made their debut at the end of 2018 and through 2019, transforming them from devices used only at the start to become adjustable ride-height devices, used throughout the race to improve acceleration and corner exit. Faster speeds on corner exit meant higher speeds on the straight, and as a result, higher braking forces.

That has had a knock-on effect on Michelin's development program as well. Since 2019, Michelin has been working on a new front tire, with more support, to improve corner entry and braking stability. The tire had been tested in 2019, with more tests scheduled in 2020 to finalize development ahead of an introduction in 2021. But with the 2020 calendar and test schedule completely rewritten, that idea had to be abandoned.

With 2022 promising to be something of a return to normality (pandemic and war permitting), this could have been the season where work on the front tire resumed. But the development of MotoGP bikes in the past two season has forced a rethink, because the design parameters have moved on.

"We are still working on the front," Michelin boss Piero Taramasso told me when I spoke to him at the Sepang MotoGP test. "We will make some adjustments, and the tests will be done in 2023, to be introduced for 2024." The added aerodynamics and braking forces had changed the demands placed on the front tire. "Basically it's delayed, because we are working to improve the temperature and the pressure control. Now when you have the slipstream, the tendency of the front tire is to overheat. So we are working on that, to try to better control that point."

The behavior of the MotoGP bikes had changed a lot over the two years of the pandemic, Taramasso said. "We realized in the past two seasons, that bikes are changing, they are putting more and more weight on the front, with the winglets, and riders are braking very very hard. So the load is changing, so we had to also change the development to adapt to that." With the front tire being subjected to higher loads, the front would have to offer even more support.

The stronger front had originally been expected to help both the Hondas and KTMs, as the bikes which demanded the most from the front under braking. But with the redesign of the RC213V to move the weight distribution more rearward, the Honda is now less dependent on the front tire for its lap time. The bike has more rear grip, and so more drive out of corners, and the ability to use the rear tire to assist in braking.

Development of the front tire may be delayed until 2024, but Michelin will be continuing development of a new rear tire ahead of the 2023 season. "We have some new things, a rear casing," Taramasso told me at Sepang.

The MotoGP riders had already tested the tire in 2021, and had brought it to Sepang for further testing. "This rear casing we already tested last year in Barcelona, in Misano, in Jerez. It's a new solution to improve the warm up and to improve the edge grip. So this solution, if it works, we will test it again this season. It may be introduced next year, for 2023."


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MotoGP's New Red Flag Rules - How They Will Work In Practice

Last week, the Grand Prix Commission changed the red flag rules for all three grand prix classes. Previously, the result of a race that was red flagged was taken from the last lap on which all riders had crossed the finish line before the red flag was shown. But in response to the perceived injustice of that situation, the GPC has changed to bring the result closer to the actual standing at the time the red flag was actually shown.

In the new situation, the final lap before the red flag was shown will determine the outcome. All of the riders on the same lap as the leader will be classified in the order they crossed the line. Any riders not on the same lap as the leader will be classified in the order they crossed the line on the penultimate lap before the red flag.

In effect, the change being made ensures that all riders will be classified in the order they crossed the finish line for the last time prior to the red flag being shown, whether that be on the same lap as the leader, one lap back, or several laps back.

Austin Moto3

The change was made in response to a number of situations in the past couple of years, with the Moto3 races at Austin a particularly unfortunate example. The race was red flagged twice, and the second running of the race saw a massive smash with two and a half laps remaining, when Deniz Öncü clipped the front wheel of Jeremy Alcoba as they raced along the back straight at the Circuit of The Americas, causing Alcoba to crash in front of the charging pack. Andrea Migno and Pedro Acosta had huge crashes as well, leaving the track littered with debris leaving Race Direction no choice but to red flag the race.

Under normal circumstances, the result would have gone back one lap, but as the pack entered Turn 11, race leader at the time Izan Guevara suffered a technical issue, and had to pull into the pits, leaving John McPhee, Jaume Masia, and Darryn Binder to cross the line as the top three.

However, because Guevara had pulled into the pits, the entire field had not crossed the line at the end of the lap before the red flag was shown. So under the old rules, Race Direction was forced to go back two laps. That made Izan Guevara the winner, putting Dennis Foggia into second and dropping McPhee down to third.

Under the new rules, Race Direction would have gone back one lap for the podium, putting McPhee, Masia, and Binder onto the podium.

New solutions, new problems

Although this is a fairer reflection of the state of the race when the red flag is shown, Twitter user Pablo Thuillier pointed out a possible problem. If, for example, a rider is leading the race with two laps to go before a red flag, but runs wide on the lap before the red flag, and drops down to, say 20th, behind a group that did not cross the line before the red flag was shown, then the former leader, now in 20th, will be classified in his position with 2 laps to go, along with the group that also didn't cross the line before the red flag.

However, the former race leader can't be given the win – they were not leading the race the last time riders crossed the finish line before the red flag. And they can't be classified in 20th – they were in first position the penultimate time the rides crossed the line before the red flag.

The solution, then, is for the riders who finished on the same lap as the leader to be classified in order, and the former race leader on the penultimate lap to be classified as the leader of all the riders who did not cross the line before the red flag.

To give a concrete example:

  • Rider A is leading a group of 10 riders on lap 14.
  • At the start of lap 15, Rider A runs wide and into the gravel, and rejoins behind a second group of 10 riders. Rider A is now in 20th position.
  • The lead group, now down to 9 riders and led by Rider B, crosses the line at the end of lap 15, to start lap 16.
  • There is a crash behind the two groups, causing the race to be red flagged
  • The second group, with Rider A still in 20th, does not cross the finish line at the end of lap 15.

How they would be classified:

  • In this scenario, the lead group would be classified in the order they crossed the line at the end of lap 15.
  • The second group, including Rider A, would be classified in the order they crossed the line at the end of lap 14.
  • BUT: Rider A was the first rider of the second group to complete lap 14, and so will be promoted to 10th.

I checked this scenario via email with Race Director Mike Webb. He said it was accurate. "All riders that haven’t crossed the finish line on the same lap as the leader are classified in the order they crossed the finish line on the previous lap, but behind the first classification of riders who did cross the line on the lead lap. So Rider A would be 10th," Webb wrote in an email.

Improvement one step at a time

When I pointed out that there were situations such as this where the new rules might seem unfair, Webb pointed out that any current solution will have some inherent unfairness in very specific scenarios, but that this solution was felt to be a big improvement and much fairer than the previous rules.

"There are possible anomalies such as this in any classification system, however it is much less unfair than the previous system where if any one rider did not cross the line on that lap, then all riders were classified based on their previous completed lap. All incidents and passes on that last lap were rendered moot for the whole field, meaning in your scenario Rider A would be the declared the winner," Webb wrote. That is precisely the scenario which occurred at Austin in the Moto3 race.

The WorldSBK series uses a different method of dealing with red flags, taking the last sector timing loop crossed by each rider as a virtual finish line. Webb pointed out that even in this scenario, there are some sectors which are so long that it is possible for a similar scenario as described above to occur, where a rider leads through one sector, runs wide and loses a lot of time, and then gets promoted or demoted to a position which, on the face of it, does not reflect their position in the race when the red flag was shown.

Webb also pointed out that technical failures were possible, such as transponder failures, which made it difficult to verify positions through each sector. Though rare, this is known to happen: several times a year a rider will disappear off the timing screens, only to reappear in exactly the same position we last saw them, a glitch in the transponder causing them to become invisible to timekeeping.

Future technological fixes

But a side benefit of MotoGP's push for safety, which involves much better information on the precise location of each rider, to allow them to be warned when a dangerous situation occurs, such as when a bike or rider falls and is left on track, means that in the future, such technology could also be used to improve race results in red-flagged races. In theory, Race Direction would know the precise location of each bike at the time the red flag is shown, and can set the race classification accordingly.

That technology is not yet ready to be used in practice and race situations, however. "Soon the technology will allow us to provide definitive positions of all bikes at all times to give the best and fairest classification, but it’s not ready yet," Webb told me. "Look at these new rules as a significant step fairer than the previous, on the way to an even better system."

Making a fair and accurate assessment of the classification of a race which is red flagged is always difficult, if not currently impossible. These new rules will remove some of the unfairness of the former system, though it is unable to address the question completely. But it is progress, and that is a good thing.

The press release from the FIM appears below:


FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Paul Duparc (FIM), Herve Poncharal (IRTA), and Biense Bierma (MSMA), in an electronic meeting held on 4 February 2022 made the following decision:

Sporting Regulations

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY

Race Classification in an Interrupted Race

Previously, if a race was red flagged and a final result declared, the result was taken from the lap on which all riders had last crossed the finish line. If a rider or several riders were half a lap or more behind the race leader, this caused the race classification to be taken from the previous lap, even when the race leader and the majority of the field had completed the next lap. In these cases, any position changes or crashes on the race leader’s final lap were rendered moot.

Effective immediately, the result of a red flagged race will now be taken from the last time the race leader crosses the finish line before the red flag is shown. All riders who cross the finish line on the same lap as the leader before the red flag will be classified in that order, as a partial classification.

Any riders who do not cross the finish line on the same lap as the leader before the red flag is shown will be classified based on where they crossed the finish line on the previous lap.

These two partial classifications will be combined to provide the final race result.

This system previously applied to races that were red flagged after the race leader had taken the chequered flag, and will now apply to all red flagged races for which a final result is declared.


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Livio Suppo To Be New Team Manager Of Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP Squad

Suzuki's quest for a team manager is at an end. After a year of searching for a replacement for Davide Brivio, who left MotoGP to join the Alpine F1 team at the end of 2020, Suzuki have finally announced the hiring of Livio Suppo to run the MotoGP team. Suppo is a very experienced team manager, having set up Ducati's MotoGP team when they first entered the class back in 2003, and having run the Repsol Honda squad after leaving Ducati at the end of 2009.

Suppo's hiring came after Suzuki had talked to a range of candidates. They had talks with Wilco Zeelenberg, but Zeelenberg was committed to the RNF project with Razlan Razali, and having worked with Yamaha in once capacity or another since he retired from racing at the end of the 2000 season, preferred to stay within the Yamaha family. There had also been rumors of Johan Stigefelt joining Suzuki, after the Swedish ex-racer's ousting when Petronas Yamaha disbanded to become RNF, but that never went much beyond rumor.

Suppo had expressed an interest in joining Suzuki at the start of the 2021 season, but Suzuki had decided it was better to wait until the off season to make a decision. Talks have been going on since the start of the year, and have only just finalized now.

Suppo's first job will be to oversee the re-signing of current riders Joan Mir and Alex Rins. Keeping Mir on board had looked a tricky proposition prior to the Sepang test, the 2020 world champion expressing dissatisfaction with the progress Suzuki made. Mir's public opinion changed drastically after Sepang, the 2022 GSX-RR being the step forward he had hoped for.

The press release appears below:


SUZUKI ANNOUNCES THE ARRIVAL OF LIVIO SUPPO

Team Suzuki Press Office – February 23rd

Suzuki Motor Corporation and Team Suzuki Ecstar join forces in the announcement that Livio Suppo will take up the position of Team Manager for Team Suzuki Ecstar with immediate effect. It’s no secret that the Project Leader, Shinichi Sahara, has been looking for a Team Manager to step into the squad for 2022. After a transitional 2021 season in which the team were forced to create a management committee, with Sahara assuming the role of Team Manager ad interim, a solution has been found and an agreement has been reached ahead of season opener in Qatar on March 6th.

Livio Suppo is a well-known manager in the MotoGP paddock. He began his career 28 years ago with Benetton Honda Team in the 125cc and 250cc classes. Since then he has enjoyed 11 years with Ducati as a Project Leader, which included the crowning of Casey Stoner as champion. He then moved to HRC where he was the Team Principal for seven years, and a further five titles were achieved. Since his departure from MotoGP, Suppo has set up a successful e-bike company, but he feels now is the perfect time to step back into the paddock.

For Team Suzuki Ecstar, Suppo’s arrival gives a further boost of confidence ahead of a season where an increase in performance compared with last year is necessary. Following the winter tests both Joan Mir and Alex Rins felt positive about their possibilities for the season ahead, and the addition of an experienced and successful manager who has a strong belief in team work and enjoys working in an upbeat atmosphere will no doubt lift the Suzuki squad’s spirits further.

Shinichi Sahara - Team Suzuki Ecstar Project Leader

“I'm very happy to announce the news of Livio Suppo as our new Team Manager before the new season starts. I'm confident that Livio is very well suited for the position, because he has a lot of experience and a big passion for winning. He understands how teams work and that team atmospheres are important when it comes to being competitive consistently during a season. Some of our crew members already have experience of working with him, and I’ve known him for long time because he’s been in the paddock for many years. We’ve already seen promising signs and improvements in our performance during winter testing, and I believe Livio joining us will bolster our team further and we will become even stronger.”


Livio Suppo - Team Suzuki Ecstar Manager

“I am very proud to become Suzuki Ecstar’s Team Manager and happy to re-join the MotoGP Championship after four years. I’m also very honored to be involved in this great project with Suzuki; for sure it will be a challenging task to be part of an historic manufacturer in MotoGP, who recently achieved the crown in 2020 in the year of their 100th anniversary. I also feel it will be a great experience to start working with two talented riders like Joan Mir and Alex Rins, both capable of fighting for the top in MotoGP. Sahara-san’s proposal came at the perfect time for me, I had been busy setting up my e-bike company but I was certainly missing the paddock and ready to come back. Racing has been my life, for almost all my career, and I will do my best to bring my experience to Team Suzuki Ecstar. I know they are a great team, but also a great group of humans, so this could help a lot to achieve our goals sooner. MotoGP nowadays is more and more exciting, with many very fast riders and competitive motorcycles from all manufacturers. It’s a difficult challenge for everybody involved, where all the small details can make the difference, I am ready to be part of the game again and give my all to be on top with Suzuki.”

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First Big MotoGP Signing Of 2022: Ducati Extend With Pecco Bagnaia Through 2024

The first big contract to be signed in MotoGP's so far torpid silly season is one of the least surprising. Today, Ducati announced that they had signed up Pecco Bagnaia for two more years, meaning the Italian will stay with the Bologna factory for the 2023 and 2024 MotoGP seasons.

It had been the intention of both parties to continue for the foreseeable future, especially after Bagnaia's exception 2021 season, in which he came close to preventing Fabio Quartararo from taking the MotoGP title. Talks had started at the end of last year, with the details finalized during the Sepang and Mandalika tests. Ducati expect that Bagnaia's improvement over the 2021 season and the Italian factory's new GP22 will once again pose a potent challenge for the MotoGP crown.

Bagnaia staying with Ducati was the first move and one of the most widely anticipated, and is likely to set the tone for the 2022 silly season. There is little sign of major rider moves being made, with neither riders nor factories showing much appetite to move around. The biggest questions remain over whether Joan Mir or Fabio Quartararo will leave their respective employers for pastures new, whether KTM can persuade Raul Fernandez to stay with them, or if he will head to Yamaha as he had intended to do for the 2021 season, and whether a factory will be so enchanted of the potential of Pedro Acosta that they will move to sign the Moto3 champion early.

None of those decisions are expected early, however. Teams and riders will want to have a look at how the first part of the season plays out, with the return of a more sane silly season likely, and contracts settled nearer the summer, around Mugello and Barcelona time.

The press release from Ducati appears below:


Francesco Bagnaia and Ducati set to continue together in the 2023 and 2024 MotoGP seasons

Francesco Bagnaia and Ducati Corse have reached an agreement that will see the Italian rider aboard the Ducati Lenovo Team's factory Desmosedici GP bike for another two seasons.

Born in Turin in 1997, "Pecco" Bagnaia made his MotoGP debut in 2019 with the Desmosedici GP of the Pramac Racing Team. He also contested the 2020 season with the same squad, achieving his first podium at the Grand Prix Lenovo of San Marino and the Rimini Riviera, where he finished second on the rostrum.

Promoted to the official Ducati team last year, the Turin-born rider continued to shine after taking pole position and finishing third place in the opening GP of the 2021 season in Qatar and soon became one of the main title contenders. With nine podiums, four victories and six pole positions, Bagnaia ended 2021 in second place and is now looking forward to the new Championship, which will start on 6th March at the Losail International Circuit in Doha, Qatar.

Francesco Bagnaia (#63 Ducati Lenovo Team)

"Being a Ducati rider in MotoGP has always been my dream, and knowing that I can continue with the Ducati Lenovo Team for another two seasons makes me happy and proud. I have found a serene environment in the factory team: I feel very much in tune with my team and know that we can do great things together. Now I can only concentrate on doing well in this Championship. A big thank you to Claudio, Gigi, Paolo, Davide and all the Ducati Corse staff. I'll try to repay their trust with my results on the track!"

Luigi Dall'Igna (General Manager of Ducati Corse):

"We are delighted to have Bagnaia with us for another two seasons. Since he arrived at Ducati in 2019, Pecco has shown great talent and the ability to interpret our Desmosedici GP very well, adapting to ride it in any condition. He did it, especially in the last season, during which he had significant growth and got to play for the World Title. The way he managed the races at Aragón, Misano, Portimão and Valencia, scoring four fantastic victories, is proof of his maturity as a rider. With these great qualities, we are sure that he has the potential to aim for the title with us".

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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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