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News From The Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix | EVENTS

Safety was in the spotlight in the week after the Japanese GP, with riders concerned about the close barriers and potential dangers of the Honda-owned Motegi circuit.

The track’s dangers were high on the agenda of the Safety Commission meeting held every race, revealed regular delegate Valentino Rossi, even as increasingly encouraging news about the critically injured Alex de Angelis filtered in.

But the crash that left the accident-prone San Marino rider (19 recorded so far this year) had been something of a freak, he pointed out, with de Angelis exiting the circuit out of control on the inside rather than the outside of a corner, which is the more usual outcome.

And fellow commission member Andrea Dovizioso acknowledged that “in our sport, it will never be possible to make every track completely safe … you would need four times the area of every circuit.”

De Angelis crashed in Free Practice Four, bringing out red flags for 20 minutes as he was stabilised at the trackside. He was reported “conscious and moving his limbs”, but was transferred to hospital by helicopter in “critical” condition.


As Rossi described, he had run off on the inside rather than the outside of the circuit on the exit of Turn 9, where barriers run close alongside a short straight.

“The accident was very bad. He crashed in a place that is very difficult to expect. He go on the inside on the exit from the corner. Always we concentrate on the outside. But with these bikes and this amount of power it is difficult to understand where the bike wants to go.

“Normally Motegi is quite safe, but we have some points that can be dangerous,” he said, pointing out that Pol Espargaro had a lucky escape falling at another point where the guardrail is close to the track.

Dovizioso spoke of another potential danger – air fence. “They explain to us,” he said, that it worked well if you hit it directly, but with a glancing blow, it was possibly worse than a guard-rail.

“There is always something you can improve, but with this type of accident … there are a lot of points like this in every track.

“It is not possible to make every corner 100 percent safe.”

De Angelis’s major injuries were spinal damage, lung contusion, and in a subsequent diagnosis also bleeding on the brain. Each of these carries very serious implications; but day by day reports of improvement reached the track, with the announcement on Saturday that he had been pronounced well enough to fly back to Italy to continue his recovery.

Lorenzo vs Rossi

Riders were in jocular mood when they arrived at what is for most their favourite circuit – reflected best in the pre-event conference when title rivals Rossi and Lorenzo were asked whether “their relationship” had changed as their battle intensified.

Rossi looked impish, and replied: “We are very happy about your interest. We have a secret diary about our relationship … we will keep it secret until the last race.”

When the laughter had subsided, he admitted it was “difficult, and there can be difficult moments. But I think this is normal.


“We got used to being in the same team, and we are very focused on our work. But for sure, he is a hard rival.”

Lorenzo expressed surprise at question, but smilingly added: “I think in the future we will be more relaxed.”

Tito Rabat’s hopes dashed

Having said goodbye to the last slender title hopes when he pulled out of the Japanese GP at Motegi, Tito Rabat now seems certain to have bid farewell also to second place, after another heavy crash ruled him out of this and the next races.

Rookie Alex Rins was just 17 points adrift when they arrived in Australia, and after taking his second pole and race win left eight points ahead.

Rabat broke his left forearm in a training crash the week before Japan, arrived freshly plated and screwed, but withdrew from the race after only a few laps.


In Australia he was struggling even to make the top 20 in the second free practice when he fell hard at the final corner, walking away clutching his arm. First tests revealed no damage, but the next day the possibility of a displaced bone fragment was discovered, and Rabat returned to Barcelona for further investigation.

He had “no other option; I need to return home for further treatment as soon as possible, so that I have the maximum amount of time to recover ahead of Valencia.”

Directly after his final Moto2 race there Rabat will test his 2016 MotoGP Honda for the next time.

Footnote: Moto3 star rookie Fabio Quartararo also left the track early, withdrawing from this race and the next, after finding that his foot injury is affecting him worse than expected. The Frenchman had pulled out of the Japanese GP as well.

Jack Miller’s MotoGP team change for 2016

Jack Miller was finally able to confirm that he will join Rabat in the expanded Marc VDS team next season, and that he will take “most of my crew” for his second year in MotoGP.

This will include crew chief Cristian Gabarrini, who was instrumental in both of Casey Stoner’s titles; in a seamless transition as his former LCR team cuts back from two riders to retain only Cal Crutchlow, after the arrest and legal problems of this year’s new sponsor CWM.

Miller started with “a big thank you to Lucio (Cecchinello, team owner) and the rest of the squad. Now I’m looking forward to starting the next chapter of my MotoGP career.”


Footnote: Miller made the announcement at the pre-race press conference, where he evoked gales of laughter talking about how several of the last races had fine practice weather then rainy Sundays. “I don’t know what the curse is. I think this bastard” (jerking his thumb towards Rossi sitting nearby) “is talking to someone up there and ordering something.”

Rossi on racing in the #AustralianGP

Rossi finally elevated this year’s title fight to the top of his list of difficulty. Asked, not for the first time, if it was his toughest battle yet, he agreed, and this was for the first time.

“Yes, it can be possible. Every year is a story, but this had more balance. It is still completely open with three races to go.

“So I think this is the most difficult.”


Bridgestone GP Tyres

Bridgestone brought a new generation of asymmetric front tyre to Phillip Island, where the pioneering type had a flawed debut one year ago.

Back then, when temperatures dropped at the end of the race, several riders crashed with this tyre, including leader Marquez and (on the last lap) rostrum-bound Crutchlow.

The change is in continuing the section of extra-soft compound across the middle of the tyre, where last year it was only on the right shoulder. The harder left shoulder is required in particular for the very fast two final left-hand corners.


The riders liked it, with 2014 victim Marquez saying: “Honestly I think it is better. In straight braking last year we felt okay, but we had many accidents … suddenly you were on the grass. This looks safer.”

Crutchlow admitted he was nervous, but said “most of the riders liked it. But we’ll have to adjust the bike for it”


The wings story continued in its unenlightening way at Phillip Island, with the Yamaha nose-jobs coming and going among its factory pair, and Ducati trying new variations on the theme.

For a second race, and with no particular elucidation, Lorenzo qualified with the winglets, which protrude from the front three quarters each side of the top cowling; while Rossi preferred to run without.

Ducati added a similar wing up high at Motegi, as a supplement to the one they already fit to the fairing flanks. Now in practice they also tried just the upper wing, Yamaha style, as well as with both wings, or just the lower.


Front-row qualifier Iannone admitted that he couldn’t feel any difference, but as he had always raced with the wings, he would use them again, purely to stick with what he knew.

The wind factor might be particularly apposite at Phillip Island, swept as it can be by sustained and ferocious gusts in sundry direction: aerodynamic ideas to help deal with this in the distant past included the first appearances of cowlings with myriad holes drilled.

Nicky Hayden

America’s last world champion Nicky Hayden is to be made the 22nd MotoGP legend at the final round at Valencia, honouring his achievements as one of the longest-serving and certainly most popular riders in the year of his retirement from grand prix racing.

Hayden, who joined MotoGP in 2003 as the youngest-ever AMA Superbike champion, defeated Rossi for the title in 2006 in a last-race shoot-out. He announced at the last race that he will be moving to World Superbikes next year.


The announcement of his induction into the World Championship Hall of Fame proves that race wins are not the only criterion. With only three, Hayden is by far the least successful on a list of 21 riders so far: Giacomo Agostini, Mick Doohan, Geoff Duke, Wayne Gardner, Mike Hailwood, Daijiro Kato, Eddie Lawson, Anton Mang, Angel Nieto, Wayne Rainey, Phil Read, Jim Redman, Kenny Roberts, Jarno Saarinen, Kevin Schwantz, Barry Sheene, Marco Simoncelli, Freddie Spencer, Casey Stoner, John Surtees and Carlo Ubbiali.

In Moto3

Race direction got tough on errant Moto3 riders in qualifying, applying the letter of the new rule to penalise a number of riders for exceeding 110 percent of their best lap time on three or more sections of the track.

Worst hit was championship leader Danny Kent, who had gone over the limit on eight sectors over the sessions, and was hit with an exemplary punishment of losing six places on the grid. This took him from first to seventh.


Others penalised, though only half as much, included Rem Gardner, Maria Herrera, Andrea Locatelli and four others.

Kent was slightly aggrieved, though he said at least he had been told of the penalty before qualifying, adding impetus to his drive to be fastest.
It was a problem for him, he said, because “everybody tries to follow me”; and he is obliged to slow down to try to get a clear track.”