2017 MotoGP News Friday from Valencia

Michael Scott | November 10, 2017
Pol Espargaro penalized for too many engines
One of the stories from Friday at Valencia was the announcement that Pol Espargaro has been penalized for using too many engines this season. (Courtesy MotoGP)

Mystery Solved, Folger Now Looks to Recover

The good news for Monster Yamaha rider Jonas Folger is that the debilitating condition that ruled him out of the last four races of the season has now been diagnosed. The bad news is that he also suffered another injury affecting his vocal cords when he crashed at Aragon, the last race in which he took part, which could take up to two years for recovery.

Folger flew home in the days before the Japanese GP, after coming close to a state of collapse, virtually bed-ridden in his hotel. After extensive medical tests in Germany, he has been diagnosed with Gilbert’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the liver’s ability to process toxins.

While not in itself too serious or even uncommon, if untreated the situation allows a build-up of toxins in the body, which is what happened to Folger.

At first a recurrence of a different condition, the Epstein Barr virus, was suspected, but a statement from the rider suggested that this had been wrong all along.

“This has been an underlying condition that has plagued Jonas for several years, but had never been diagnosed properly. Prior to the Japanese GP, it had escalated to a point where his entire body shut down,” the statement read.

The initial treatment will be complete detoxification, and in future a special diet will be required.

His place was taken at Valencia by Yamaha Superbike rider Michael van der Mark, for a second race in a row.

E-Bikes Coming

The forthcoming electric-bike series that Dorna plans to introduce in 2019 took a step closer to reality with the announcement that Michelin’s long-standing Technical Director Nicolas Goubert is to quit the tyre company after 28 years to run the forthcoming FIM Moto-e World Cup.

The French engineer, a familiar face in the paddock since the late 1980s spearheaded Michelin’s return as control-tyre suppliers last year.

Goubert will take up his appointment in February next year.

The Moto-e championship, still in the formative stage, is envisaged as a one-make series, with established riders taking part in races held alongside MotoGP events. Dorna official Loris Capirossi has already been testing potential bikes for the series.

The pioneering move is probably well-timed and a valuable public-relations exercise, but faces much scepticism, especially given the underwhelming reception to the “TT Zero” races staged at the Isle of Man TT.

11th or Better Wins it for Marquez

The arithmetic for the MotoGP championship is simple for the two remaining title protagonists.

Andrea Dovizioso must win and take the 25-point maximum to have any chance at all of overturning Marquez’s 21-point advantage. If he can take a seventh win, one more than Marquez, then he will be champion even if they are equal on points. This would be the case if Marquez finished 12th. Should the triple MotoGP champion finish 11th or better, he will take a fourth crown.

For Dovi, the pressure was on his rival. “I have just one strategy,” he said, promising to approach the weekend in the same calm and methodical way as every other race this year. “Marc has the pressure. Maybe that will be my chance.”

Marquez in turn said: “One race decides everything … but I will not go into and say ‘11th is okay’,”

Only three times in GP history has a rider overturned an advantage to snatch the title at the last round.

In 1992, Wayne Rainey arrived at the closing South African GP at Kyalami trailing returned injury victim Mick Doohan by two points. Rainey finished third, Doohan sixth. Rainey was champion for a third year straight by four points.

In 2006 Nicky Hayden was 12 points behind Rossi before the Valencia season-closer; but Valentino crashed and remounted, finishing 13th; third was enough for Hayden to take the honours.

And in 2015 Rossi led again, seven points clear of Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo – but with a back-of-the-grid penalty after the notorious kicking incident with Marquez in Malaysia. Lorenzo won, Rossi was fourth, and the Spaniard was champion by five points.

Silly Season Talk

Will Valentino Rossi be extending his GP career beyond the end of next year, by when he will have completed a record 23 years?

The superstar left everyone guessing when asked the question on the eve of the last GP of 2017.

“After a few races next year, to see if I am still fast and can be competitive, I will speak with Yamaha, and see,” he said.

This was one leading question of a growing storm of speculation about 2019, by when all major contracts are up for grabs.

Rumours linking Marc Marquez with a move to Red Bull KTM won’t go away, with the energy drink giant said to have offered him a blank cheque to leave Honda.

Extensive Testing Slated for Yamaha

Yamaha have a major testing programme lined up before the testing moratorium at the end of November, after a mixed season where the mixture of fortunes went the wrong way.

Substitute Monster Yamaha rider Michael van der Mark will miss his chance of joining the Valencia tests as a result, as the factory enlists the satellite team and rider Johan Zarco in the efforts to get back on course.

Yamaha racing boss Lin Jarvis spoke of “a difficult technical year.” They had won races early in the season, “then got into difficulties at tracks where we didn’t expect it, mainly in low-grip situations.”

The problems scuppered pre-season favourite Maverick Vinales’s hopes, and the Spaniard told press that “testing is more important than racing,” suggesting that the team will be using the Valencia round to advance the test programme.

Rossi has previously said that the difficult handling problems had cost him more than breaking his leg.

A revised engine was “in the programme”, said Rossi before the weekend. “But our problem is the chassis. We have been struggling a lot, and we don’t know how to fix it.”

In addition to the two days at Valencia, Yamaha are to take both factory riders and Zarco to Sepang before the end of the month.

Team to Continue after Manager’s Passing

After missing the Malaysian GP following the sudden death of team manager Stefan Kiefer, both Team Kiefer riders Dominique Aegerter and Tarran Mackenzie were back in action at Valencia … with news that the team will return next year as the second independent team to switch to KTM.

Aegerter has been retained, and will be joined by former Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese, rescuing the German’s career.

The other team switching to KTM after the Austrian brand’s race-winning first season, as previously reported, sees Sam Lowes take Luthi’s place alongside Iker Lecuona.

The news was confirmed with the release of provisional 2018 entry lists.

With Japanese chassis makers NTS also joining the class, fielding American Joe Roberts and South African Steven Odendaal, it brings the number of different frames in Moto2 to six, with Kalex still the most popular. The others are Suter, Speed Up and Tech 3.

The lists also show another novelty – in Moto3 Makar Yurchenko becomes the first-ever rider from Kazakhstan. He takes the place of this year’s youngest rider Patrik Pulkkinen, who is out of the series.

Suzuki Hoping to Take a Step Back in Order to Move Forward

Suzuki will be hoping for an unsuccessful Valencia GP, with neither of their riders Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins able to preserve the record of a disappointing season by not getting anywhere near the podium.

A season without a top-three finish will return to the Japanese squad the concessions enjoyed by new or unsuccessful teams, including extra engines and unlimited testing.

Rossi protégé Nicolo Bulega was the worst injured of several crashes on the first day at Valencia. The Italian SKY VR46 Moto3 rider is out of Sunday’s race, and through no fault of his own. He suffered a broken ankle after a violent crash, caused when compatriot Niccolo Antonelli fell under his wheels in FP2.

Too Many Engines for Pol Espargaro

Late in the day there was a Notification of Sanction for MotoGP rider Pol Espargaró.

The infringement is using more than 9 engines during the season, as they fitted engine number 10 to Pol’s bike for FP2 (MotoGP is limited to 7 engines per rider per season, but teams with Concessions are allowed 9 engines per rider per season).

The standard penalty is to start the race from pit lane with a 5-second delay from the time the pit lane exit would normally open.

He will do a sighting lap and go to the grid, but will then enter the pit lane on the warm up lap and starts the race from pit lane.

Michael Scott | MotoGP Editor Scott has been covering MotoGP since long before it was MotoGP. Remember two-strokes? Scott does. He’s also a best-selling author of biographies on the lives of legendary racers such as Wayne Rainey and Barry Sheene.