Month: November 2015

MotoGP – world’s best test rider joins Ducati

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Ducati has announced that double MotoGP champion Casey Stoner will return to the Italian manufacture’s ranks as a brand ambassador and test rider.

The news comes just minutes after Honda announced that the 30-year-old Australian was quitting his testing role with the Japanese factory, ending a five-year relationship with HRC.

Stoner said: “It’s been a great journey with HRC over the last five years, winning the World Championship in 2011 was obviously a high point and I’ve made many friends and formed lasting relationships along the way,” Stoner said.

“For 2016 I am very excited to announce that I will again be joining the Ducati team! I have so many great memories working with the people and the brand of Ducati and the opportunity to work with them again is something very special.

“Gigi Dall’Igna has brought with him a new approach and I’m looking forward to assisting the team, Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone however I can.

“The Ducati brand and the Ducati fans have been such a big part of my career and my life, so it will be really great to reunite the relationship and start another chapter with this iconic brand.”

Stoner won 23 races for Ducati between 2007 and 2010, taking the title for the team in 2007, but since his switch to Honda in 2010 the factory has not claimed a grand prix victory since his departure.

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WSBK – positive track debut for 2016 ZX-10R

Kawasaki WSBK duo Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes completed a two-day test at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Spain with both riders describing their experience of the new 2016 ZX-10R as positive.

After trying out some new model components at a one-day Jerez test last September, shortly after winning the Riders’ Championship, Rea did some comparative testing between the 2015 and 2016 machinery at the beginning of this test, before switching his efforts and focussing solely on the full 2016 machine.

The newly crowned WSBK champion set a fastest lap of 1’40.6 on the 2016 bike, which is the full WorldSBK spec race version of the new 2016 showroom model, recently unveiled to the world in Spain. He completed 114 laps in total.

Rea said: “Honestly, testing is not my favourite part of the job but it has been necessary to make a really constant effort because Kawasaki has brought many new components for the 2016 bike. It has quite a different character from last season so we had to evaluate many things. The main thing was the chassis balance of the bike and we have some positives from that. The engine character is quite different to the 2015 bike as well so we have been working with the electronics to maximise that and make it suit my style. We got through the vast majority of the test items and we are happy because we were able to lap a lot faster than we did during race weekend, with a similar temperature. So that is encouraging.”

Pere Riba, Jonathan Rea’s Crew Chief, was equally buoyant. He said: “We started with a mix between the 2015 and 2016 machines to start to follow the programme of understanding the good points from 2015 and the good points for 2016. Then, after some laps going out and in, we changed to the 2016 bike and we started to focus on that programme.

“There is quite a lot of difference on the engine side because there is a different inertia and other details in the engine. Also, the 2016 chassis so it is essentially a new bike. Because of this we have to understand every single change we make in the set-up of the engine and chassis. We are really happy with the results because we reached nearly 90% of the items we wanted to test. We improved the feeling of the bike for Jonathan step by step and at the same time the lap time was good. On race tyres we did a kind of simulation and the race times were already much faster compared to the fastest race at Jerez this year.”

Sykes also tried both 2015 and 2016 components and machinery at this test but ended up with a more or less complete 2016 set-up in readiness for the next test for the team, to be held at Motorland Aragon between 16 and 17 November.

MotoGP – Lorenzo fans flames of Marquez pact

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Newly crowned MotoGP world champion has added fuel to the fire of those suggesting Marquez had formed a pack with his fellow Spaniard to prevent Valentino Rossi winning the championship with an incendiary post race quote at Valencia.

Speaking after landing his fifth world title, and his third in the premier class, Lorenzo said: “The hardest part of the race was seeing Pedrosa get very close. I thought I would run the risk of ending up third and losing the Championship, but in the end, they surely realised that there was a lot at stake for me. Maybe in another type of race they could risk more and pass me, but instead they were very good because the title would remain in Spain.

“I always try to be honest. The truth is that I did a race in which I gave my best, as always, however sincerely today the Honda was very good and it was very difficult to always keep the concentration and stay in front of them.

“They are Spanish like me and knew what was at stake, so I benefited because maybe without that little help, maybe considering that Valentino did a great race comeback from last to fourth place, he could win the Championship. So this title is mine, it is ours, but also of Spain.”

MotoGP – HRC boss hits back at Rossi claims

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HRC Executive Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto has defended Honda Factory rider Marc Marquez following Valentino Rossi’s sensational post race interview yesterday following the season finale at Valencia. 
The Italian launched a scathing  attack on the former double world champion, accusing him of acting as Lorenzo’s bodyguard and questioning why the young Spaniard hadn’t attacked Lorenzo, yet fought hard to prevent team-mate Pedrosa from overtaking.
But HRC’s boss has hit back, defending his rider and rubbishing Rossi’s claims. He said: “This is not the atmosphere we wanted to experience at the end of an unforgettable championship. We understand that it’s been a very difficult day for Valentino, after leading the championship for 17 races and losing by just five points in the final race must be very disappointing. However, on the other side we cannot accept the strong accusations he has directed against our rider and Honda in the past weeks and in today’s post race press conference. Together with the allegation he made after Phillip Island, there is no evidence to support these accusations, only the fact that Marc took five points away from Valentino’s competitor in the championship, Jorge.

“Today Valentino has alleged that Marc never attempted to pass Jorge, who has clearly had a very good pace all weekend which he demonstrated by taking a strong pole position in qualifying. Marc was struggling to stay behind him during the race and both him and Dani have done a great job to not lose too much distance to Jorge. Marc’s plan was to attack in the last lap, as we have seen many times in the past if the opportunity presents itself, he will try. Dani’s pace increased at the end of the race and he overtook Marc but ran wide and Marc was able to immediately pass him back, but this is racing.

“We are sorry that Valentino doesn’t believe this is the case, but we are certain both Marc and Dani were pushing 100% to achieve the best result for the Repsol Honda Team and all our partners as always. We cannot accept that these accusations continue to surface time after time, as this is the perception of one person – which we respect – but it is not the reality.

“Valentino is a great champion and clearly an intelligent individual so we truly hope that in time, once the dust settles, he can reevaluate what has happened and accept this was another great race from a wonderful season, and it’s a shame to spoil it. Marc and Dani have taken points away from both Valentino and Jorge this year, this is the nature of racing.”

MotoGP – runner-up Rossi launches scathing attack on Marquez

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Valentino Rossi gave a riding masterclass at Valencia, carving his way through the field from the back of the grid to finish the race in fourth place. However, his Herculean effort was in vain as team-mate and title rival Jorge Lorenzo rode a faultless race to cross the line in first.

Lorenzo took the title as Honda duo Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were unable to pass the Spaniard, with Marquez not making a single attempt to pass his compatriot. In fact MotoGP’s most aggressive hard charger only got race when his team-mate Pedrosa closed the gap and attempted to pass towards the end of the race.

Marqeuz’s lack if of fight irked many across the glove, including title runner-up Rossi.

The Italian said: “Marquez Finished his job today, that of being Lorenzo’s bodyguard. He clearly didn’t want me to win the title. I never seen Behavior like this. I don’t understand why.. I hope he will understand what he did in these last races is an embarrassment for the sport and for everyone involved with it.

“I knew from Thursday that Lorenzo will win this title because Marquez will protect Lorenzo. Why did Marquez never try to overtake Lorenzo? Why did he overtake Pedrosa? How can Honda can one of its riders helped Yamaha to win a race?

“From now on, I don’t think Marquez will Play again at The Ranch with The kids (VR46 RidersAcademy). This season was a great season.I was always Competitive and never made any mistakes.”

MotoGP – stunning pole gives Lorenzo the upper hand ahead of season finale at Valencia

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All eyes were on Yamaha Factory riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi ahead of tomorrow’s title decider and Lorenzo went balls out in Q2, setting a truly sensational lap to secure pole position for the last race of the year.

It wasn’t such a successful session for teammate Rossi, who free of the pressure of qualifying, concentrated instead on his race pace. However, the Italian, who has a slender seen point lead but who is starting to tomorrow’s race from the very back of the grid, suffered a small crash at the final stages and ended the day having set the twelfth fastest time.

Fully focused on the task ahead, Lorenzo was calm and collected as he emerged from pit lane as the last rider to head out in the last 15-minute Q2 of the season. Once out on the relatively empty track, he stayed true to usual form and immediately dropped under the 1’31s mark with a 1’30.996s for provisional third position.

With a little less than nine minutes of the session remaining, he hurried back to the pits to start his second time attack a minute later. His next flying lap was a sensational 1’30,011s for pole position, enough to break the circuit best lap record, creating nearly half a second margin to his closest rival.

Lorenzo quickly headed back to box for a second stop, but neither he nor any of his competitors were able to come close to his superb lap time.

The Spaniard was clearly elated and described his pole lap as the best of his career. He said: “Today’s goal was to qualify on first row, but there was a lot of tension. I expected that Andrea Iannone’s bike with the soft tyre could steal the first row, so I put in the maximum effort at the track with the three tyres and that is what I did.

“I wasn’t very satisfied with the first one, 1’30.9s wasn’t the lap time I expected, but with the second one the bike worked perfectly with the grip, the braking, the corner speed and the acceleration. I rode better than on the previous lap and I got pole. It probably was my best lap in all my life and I’m very proud, but the important thing is to start from front row, make a good start tomorrow, don’t make any mistakes and avoid problems on the first laps and try to get the World Title. Today they didn’t give out points, the contest is tomorrow and it’s going to be a difficult, long and stressful race.

Team-mate Rossi took a moment at the start of the session before he mounted his Yamaha YZR-M1 and had his first attempt of setting a hot lap. The Doctor clocked a 1’32.840s on his first try and bettered his time to 1’31.471s in the second before returning to the pits for a fresh rear tyre.

Back on track with five minutes remaining, he used his third flying lap to warm up his tyres to be able to push to the maximum on the next lap. Having picked up the pace, the nine-time World Champion had set a new personal best time for the first two sectors, but a small slide down the track meant the end of his session.

Though he set the twelfth fastest time, Rossi will be starting the race from last place on the grid, having collected a total of four penalty points on his racing license.

An ever optimistic Rossi said: “I’m OK, this is the most important thing. The day was not so bad, especially in the morning I was strong, but in the afternoon I suffered a bit more with the grip and I struggled a little bit more with a higher temperature.

“After, in qualifying, we didn’t have the pressure to try to set the best lap so we tried something else. Some modifications I didn’t like so I came back in and on my last lap it wasn’t so bad, my first sections were quite fast, but unfortunately after that I made a mistake and I crashed, but this doesn’t make a big difference for tomorrow because I will start last. We have to improve the grip to improve the race pace.

“If it’s cool, lower degrees can change a lot of things about the grip in comparison between a Yamaha and a competing bike. Maybe, if the temperature is a little bit less, I can go a bit faster. It will be very hard, the bad news for the race is that Jorge rode to pole position, because we hoped he wouldn’t start first, but fortunately we don’t have to think about that, it’s not our problem, I just have to recover as much as possible.”

MotoGP – Repsol Honda duo lock out first row

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Repsol Honda duo Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa will start tomorrow’s Valencia GP from second and third on the grid respectively as they look to finish the season on a high note with victory after winning the last three races.

Marquez put in a stellar performance and looked odds on to secure pole with a sensational lap, but was pipped to the post by title challenger Jorge Lorenzo, who rode what he described as the ‘perfect lap’. Instead, Marquez was demoted to  second place, with a resurgent Pedrosa just 0.017 seconds off his Honda teammate.

Marquez said: “It’s all very close on the time sheets with regards to race pace and I think it will be a tough race tomorrow; there is not much between us. We need to see what happens with the tyres and how the bike responds after ten consecutive laps. We are on a par with Dani and Jorge and I will try to get on the podium and and hope to fight for victory at this last race of 2015!”

Pedrosa was equally bullish. He said: “We’ll see how it tomorrow goes and hope to be in the fight for the victory. Yesterday we had some problems but today we took a step forward and are in better shape. We’ll have to start the race very focused and I’m looking forward to racing at this track, in front of the home fans. I’ll push 100% because it is sure to be a hotly contested race; Marc and Jorge have a strong pace so let’s hope for a good race!”

The final race of 2015 will commence tomorrow at 14h00 local time.

MotoGP – CAS rejects Rossi appeal

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The Court of Arbitration for Sport has rejected Yamaha factory rider Valentino Rossi’s appeal to have his Sepang penalty suspended until after this weekend’s Valencia title showdown.

The three-point penalty, handed to him for his part in the incident he was involved in with Marc Marquez that pushed the spaniard wide and caused him to lowside, means he will start from the back of the grid for the final race and the season’s title decider at Valencia.

Rossi, who has a seven point cushion over second placed Jorge Lorenzo, will still be entitled to participate in Q2 if he finishes in the top ten after the three sessions of free practice, but the position he secures in Q2 will not count for his grid position as he will be automatically relegated to the very back of the grid.

The statement reads: “”The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dismissed Valentino Rossi’s request to stay the execution of the decision issued by the FIM Stewards on 25 October 2015.

“Accordingly, the decision of the FIM Stewards to impose three penalty points on Valentino Rossi’s record following an incident with Marc Marquez during the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix race held on 25 October 2015 stands and Valentino Rossi will commence the next (and last) event of the season, to be held in Valencia/Spain on 6-8 November 2015, from the last grid position.

“After the race in Malaysia, the FIM Race Direction found that Valentino Rossi had deliberately run
wide in order to force Marc Marquez off line, resulting in contact causing Marquez to crash out of the
race. For this breach of the FIM regulations, the FIM Race Direction imposed three penalty points on the
rider’s record, a sanction confirmed later by the FIM Stewards. Since Valentino Rossi already has one
penalty point from an earlier incident this year, this decision brings him to a total of four penalty points.
On the basis of the FIM Regulations, a rider with four penalty points must start the next race from last
grid position.

“This request for a stay was filed at CAS on 29 October 2015 by Valentino Rossi together with his
appeal to have the FIM Steward’s decision regarding the 3 point penalty annulled or at least reduced.
The CAS Arbitrator, appointed by mutual agreement of the parties (Prof. Ulrich Haas/Germany), heard
the representatives of Mr Rossi and FIM yesterday at the CAS office in Lausanne in order to rule
exclusively on the urgent request for a stay to determine whether or not Valentino Rossi should start
from last grid position in Valencia. The CAS Arbitrator found that the conditions to grant the stay were
not met, which means that the sanction imposed by FIM will have to be served at the next Grand Prix
in Valencia.

“On 2 November 2015, Jorge Lorenzo filed a Request for Intervention in order to be able to participate
in this CAS arbitration but such request was denied. However, the CAS Arbitrator, after consultation
with the parties, allowed the filing of a written statement by counsel for Jorge Lorenzo.

“The arbitration procedure is still in progress and a final decision on the merits will be rendered at a
later stage.”

The CAS ruling is only on Rossi’s request to have the penalty suspended for Valencia. The full case will still be heard in front of the panel of arbitration, but that will still take between six and twelve months, and will have no impact on the outcome of the the 2015 championship.

It also means that Rossi has now served his penalty, and he will not have to serve it again after the hearing has completed.

MotoGP – the Empire strikes back

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Yamaha has responded to Repsol’s criticism of Valentino Rossi by issuing a short, no nonsense statement of its own.

The statement reads as follows: “We refer to the press release issued by Repsol Media Service on Sunday 25 October 2015, titled “Pedrosa wins and Marquez crashes after unsportsmanlike kick from Rossi”, as well as the press release issued by Honda Racing Corporation on Monday 2 November, titled “Q&A with Shuhei Nakamoto, HRC Executive Vice President”.

“Yamaha would like to express its disagreement with the words that have been used to report on the incident between riders Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez.

“Both press releases included words that accuse Valentino Rossi of kicking Marc Marquez‘s bike that is something not proven by the investigation of the Race Direction.

“We therefore reject the wording used in the said published statements that do not correspond with the findings of the Race Direction.

“Yamaha has no wish to enter into further discussion regarding this unfortunate affair and our desire is to conclude the 2015 MotoGP season in the best possible way.

“We go to Valencia with the clear intention of trying our best to win what we hope will be a memorable final race with all riders and teams competing in an exemplary sportsmanlike manner befitting the top category of motorcycle racing.”

WSBK – successful debut test for 2016 ZX-10R

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Tom Sykes and the official Kawasaki Racing Team have successfully completed their first three-day winter test in readiness for the 2016 FIM Superbike World Championship campaign.

With wet weather spoiling the first two days, Tom Sykes spent the last day testing new parts and completed 72 laps on the new ZX-10R around the 5.077km circuit in the north of Spain.

Sykes reported significant improvements in the braking stability and engine performance of the 2016 WorldSBK spec race machine around Motorland, and set a best lap time of 1’50.6, a mark which he matched with some consistency throughout.

Sykes, who finished third in the 2015 championship, said: “We are heading back in a good direction to something we know. We ironed out some teething problems and got a general feel for things on the opening days and then today, when the sun was out from start to finish, we got our heads down and worked through a whole book of tricks. The team worked overtime today – parts in, parts out – all day. They all worked really efficiently and kept us on track for the maximum time possible. The overall performance of the Ninja ZX-10R at these tests is something that excites me. Overall the lap times were really consistent. The feeling was easier to achieve than I have been used to. It is still early days but this has definitely been a good start to our winter test programme.”

The team now heads right across Spain to test at the Andalusia circuit of Jerez de La Frontera, between 3 and 4 November – this time with new World Champion Jonathan Rea (KRT) joining in testing duties after the recent birth of his second child meant he missed the first test at Motorland Aragon.