2018 San Marino MotoGP Friday News

Michael Scott | September 7, 2018

2018 San Marino MotoGP Friday News

Rossi refuses Marc’s hand in… a handshake.

2018 San Marino MotoGP Friday News
It sure didn’t look like things were “okay” between Marc and Rossi (right) in the press conference.

2018 San Marino MotoGP Friday News—The simmering feud at the top of the premier class was renewed at Misano when Valentino Rossi openly snubbed Marc Marquez’s proffered handshake at the pre-event press conference.

The awkward moment was provoked by questions arising from Marquez’s comments in an interview in the break after the canceled British GP, where he said he would be happy to “make peace” with his great rival.

Speaking from a position significantly leading the World Championship, Marquez might have thought it a timely move; but when Rossi was asked his opinion, he demurred. “It sounds to me a bit strange because in reality, we don’t have any problems between me and Marc. So I don’t know why we have to ‘make peace’. For me, it’s okay.”

In that case, came another question, would you shake hands?

Marquez put out his paw, but Rossi kept his arms crossed and shook his head. Marquez accepted the rebuff with a smile, later commenting: “I am leading the championship and riding really well, so I am in a sweet moment. So it’s okay.”

Rossi repeated his “we are okay”, comment, saying: “We don’t need to shake hands.” But his aloof refusal even to look at his rival said more, and the next day he told Italian media he was sorry about the situation, but that personal relationships were not important. “It is not written anywhere that we must go out to dinner.”

Some deplored that Rossi had not taken the chance to cool down an atmosphere that has his legion of fans hissing and booing at the podium every time Marquez wins – which is rather often. This is to misunderstand the nature of their rivalry. In terms of racing, each will draw strength from it; while Rossi, in particular, will also make money from it, with boosted sales of memorabilia.

The first major fall-out was in 2015, coming to a head when Rossi unexpectedly (and very illogically) used the Malaysian GP pre-race conference to accuse Marquez of helping his (Rossi’s) Yamaha teammate Lorenzo to win the championship.

“How?” wondered Marquez. “By beating him at the last race?”

Nothing daunted, Rossi swerved around to slow Marquez at the race three days later, eventually pushing the Honda rider into a crash. He denied a deliberate kick but was hit with a back-of-the-grid penalty at the next round, and Lorenzo won the title.

The animosity flared up again in Argentina this year when it was Marquez’s turn to bump Rossi off. Rossi insisted it was deliberate, refused to accept an apology, and, not offered a chance to do so, was happy to continue the fight.

2019 MotoGP Calendar Released

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There’ll be no Finland or Mexico on the 2019 MotoGP calendar.

The provisional 2019 calendar was released in the days before the Misano GP, with little changed from this year. There are again 19 races – the threat of the 20th round in Mexico having been averted.

The year begins as usual in Qatar on March 10, and terminates in Valencia on November 17, and the order of events is unchanged.

Significantly, the British GP is still marked down for Silverstone, in spite of the disastrous resurfacing problems that cause cancellation a fortnight ago. There is some potential for this to change, however.

Less likely to change, the German GP. Threats at this year’s event that it would be the last at the Sachsenring were hollow, and the pocket-handkerchief track outside Chemnitz has been confirmed for 2019, with a statement from promoters ADAC that they have “intensified their commitment to the event,” and hope it will continue at the circuit.

A few days later came confirmation that the San Marino GP will stay at Misano until 2021.

The provisional calendar is:

10 March Qatar* Losail International Circuit
31 March República Argentina Termas de Río Hondo
14 April Americas Circuit of the Americas
05 May Spain Circuito de Jerez
19 May France Le Mans
02 June Italy Autodromo del Mugello
16 June Catalunya Barcelona – Catalunya
30 June Netherlands TT Circuit Assen
07 July Germany Sachsenring
04 August Czech Republic Automotodrom Brno
11 August Austria Red Bull Ring – Spielberg
25 August Great Britain Silverstone Circuit
15 September San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
22 September Aragón MotorLand Aragón
06 October Thailand Chang International Circuit
20 October Japan Twin Ring Motegi
27 October Australia Phillip Island
03 November Malaysia Sepang International Circuit
17 November Comunitat Valenciana Comunitat Valenciana – Ricardo Tormo

Silverstone Under Fire

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The safety car did way more laps than MotoGP bikes did at Silverstone two weeks ago.

Discontented rumblings about the Silverstone resurfacing debacle continued, with Marc Marquez saying that the track needs a complete resurfacing, “but in a good way” before it will be possible to hold a MotoGP race there.

“Now we know, but only after the race, that they had already had problems there before,” he continued – a slur on Dorna’s track homologation system.

Other riders spoke about races that had been able to go ahead in much wetter conditions, including at Silverstone before the 2018 resurfacing debacle.

Marquez said the problem was more to do with the asphalt than the amount of rain. “In 2015, it was raining more,” he said. “At Motegi also.” This year’s GP had been canceled in the relatively light rain.

Rossi won the sodden 2015 race, and said: “It was very rainy and slippery … but it was okay. This year the water remained on the track.”

Lorenzo said: “I was one who went straight on in FP4. Before arriving there [at Turn Seven] it was almost dry, then in fourth or fifth gear, it was like another world. I closed the throttle, but it was not enough to stop the bike.”

Jack Miller, the only rider at the impromptu Sunday afternoon Safety Commission meeting to vote to race, remained a dissenting voice, telling press: “I think we quit too early;” and continuing: “where the aquaplaning was, you could avoid the racing line and go down the inside, and it was dry. It was a case of having to ride to the conditions.”

Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta told Spanish TV that in future races would not be canceled, but run on the Monday or Tuesday.

Teams had vetoed racing on Monday at Silverstone in spite of a national holiday and the forecast of good weather because several including Yamaha had tests scheduled at Aragon in the week after the race.

Pondering on Ponsson

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Ponsson was the subject of much discussion in the press conference but has so far acquitted himself well to riding a MotoGP machine.

Doubts were voiced at the riders’ Safety Commission meeting about the wisdom of allowing a Grand Prix novice to join the premier class after the Reale Avintia Ducati team replaced injured Tito Rabat with French first-timer Christophe Ponsson.

The relatively unknown 22-year-old from Lyon was straight in at the deep end, taking over ill-favored team regular Xavier Simeon’s hybrid earlier bike, with Simeon moving up to Rabat’s vacant GP17.

At the pre-event conference, the fairness and wisdom of this choice was questioned by all riders. “For me, the first time on a MotoGP bike in the weekend of a race is not a good idea,” said Rossi; while Marquez said: “To ride in MotoGP you need a certain level.”

The rider’s ears must have been burning, but he managed not only to stay out of everybody’s way in both of Friday’s sessions, but to slash two seconds off his lap time, and place half-a-second inside the 107-percent qualification limit.

A team spokesman told of the difficulty of finding a replacement rider at short notice, particularly with the World Superbike season resuming in Portugal next weekend.

Rabat suffered serious leg injuries in an accident at Silverstone, when he broke both tibia and fibula as well as his femur in three places after he was hit by Morbidelli’s Honda in the FP4 multiple crash. He is recovering in hospital in Spain and is unlikely to ride again this year.

The team spokesman said Ponsson would see out the year if he proves fast enough.

Abraham Replaces Xavier Simeon

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Abraham will be back on the grid next year with a GP18 Ducati.

The last vacant seat in MotoGP was tied up on the eve of the Misano round, with independent Czech rider Karel Abraham switching Ducati teams to take over from Xavier Simeon at the Spanish Reale Avintia squad.

The 28-year-old legal graduate, who has a number of top-10 finishes including four seventh places in his portfolio, was left without a ride when his current Aspar-owned Angel Nieto Ducati team ceded its grid place to the new satellite Petronas Yamaha outfit.

Now he will replace the under-performing Xavier Simeon alongside Tito Rabat next year.

Smith To Aprilia Test Role

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Smith will transition into a testing role with Aprilia at the end of this season.

Bradley Smith’s MotoGP career has been saved, at least in part, after the British rider inked a deal to join Aprilia as test rider in the Italian factory’s upgraded test team next year.

The job will also offer “several wild card rides”, according to an official statement; while racing boss Romano Albesiano told Dorna TV interviewer Simon Crafar that the experienced Smith was the perfect choice, because “we are planning a different level of testing next year.”

Presently the factory test team’s role is in proving durability; but Smith would be able to bring sufficient speed to help the development of the bike, currently lagging after a difficult fourth season and a new engine and chassis had not brought the hoped-for performance.

“There will be a reasonable number of wildcard rides to keep the rider motivation and level,” said Albesiano.

On the same day, Yamaha informally confirmed that Jonas Folger will be the main test rider for their planned Europe-based test team for next season.

KTM’s Wings

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Pol Espargaro with his revised fairing at Misano.

KTM has given wings to their Red Bull-backed MotoGP bikes – with the fairing on the returned injury victim Pol Espargaro’s machine sprouting very Honda/Yamaha-like arced blades high on the fairing nose, and further enclosed loops lower on the fairing flanks. By the first afternoon, however, they had gone.

All teams are allowed one aero-body update for each rider during the season.

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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.