The Marquez affair: Yamaha and Ducati say no
The consequences of Marquez’ recent injury, (he has broken his fibula during a dirt-track training session in Lleida one week ago), is causing a controversy that it was difficult to predict.
The facts: Marc is recovering and it would be too risky for him to get back on track the next Monday at Phillip Island for the Bridgestone testing session, and it would be easier for him to take part in the session scheduled on March 7th at Losail, in Qatar.
Honda would like to take this option otherwise Marc would start to the season having missed six testing days. That’s why the Japanese Factory asked the Race Direction to allow Marc to test in Qatar instead than in Australia and they were granted permission.
Matter settled? Of course not.
The other Factories are not happy at all with the news and the reason is quite simple: the three official teams (Honda, Yamaha and Ducati) had decided, on a gentleman agreement basis, to attend the Bridgestone test in Australia leaving the Qatar’s session to the Satellite and the Open teams.
Now, Yamaha and Ducati are not willing to give Marquez the advantage of testing on the same track where the Championship will kick off just two weeks later. The Spaniard would make good use of three days of test and of the advantage of gathering 'fresh' data. At this point Yamaha communicated to IRTA and to the Race Direction that if Marquez was going to Qatar, Rossi and Lorenzo could also opt for the same solution. Ducati on the other hand even refuse to consider this option and want proceed according to the original plan.
"We had made a deal, accepting to put ourselves at disposal of the Championship - explains Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati MotoGP Project Director - We proposed to participate with our test riders, but Bridgestone asked for the official ones riders and we agreed, even at the cost of sacrifice the advantage of a test in Qatar ten days before the race”.
The position of the Borgo Panigale based Factory is clear and it doesn’t want to be against Marquez. "On the contrary, we want to see him back in shape soon”, - assures Ciabatti – “but we feel that the Qatar’s solution would be incorrect. The Race Director has given his permission, probably without considering everything. They should at least have consulted all the parties involved. Unfortunately riders’ accidents are part of the business and if a rider is forced to miss a test, as it happened many times in the past, he has to accept it. Furthermore it’s a bit strange not being able to ride on Monday and doing it just three days later”.
For Ducati, it's a matter of principle and of respect for the rules. "Our position is going on as decided, as agreed: everyone at Phillip Island”, - said the manager - "If Marc cannot come, they will bring a test rider. We do not want loopholes being found when the need arises, otherwise from now on we will request a written agreement in any situation"
On the paper, in fact, Honda didn’t do something against the rules, which just prohibits to test on both tracks (Australia and Qatar), so there is no obligation to choose one test rather than the other. But between the three Factories there was gentlemen's agreement and now Honda want to break it.
At the moment Yamaha’s reaction looks like a provocation, or better, an effort to prevent Marquez testing in Qatar. It’s in-fact very important that the teams go to Phillip Island after the big problems they had to face during the last GP down-under. If the test will be neglected, Dorna will be forced to take action on the matter.
Honda Team Principal Livio Suppo rejects all allegations that Honda want to by-pass the agreement.
“First of all our priority is to understand how Marc is recovering”, he underlines. "Until we don’t have the doctors’ opinion we won’t take any decision. Said that, I think there have been some overreactions about the situation”.
Suppo, to motivate his words, makes an example: "Last year only a few riders tested at Austin – he went on – and then some of those that didn’t test went faster in the race there. If this happened on a new track all the more reason why testing on a well known track gives a necessarily minimal advantage."
Whatever decision will be taken, Honda will be at Phillip Island with Pedrosa. “We don’t want go to Qatar to gain an advantage, but just to let Marc understand how he feels on the bike. It’s not a private test. If it gives so much an advantage why as fast riders as Bautista and the Espargaro brothers are allowed to do it?”.
The two parts are on clear opposite sides. The final decision will be taken in the next hours. And we will see if Dorna will be able to put the fire out.
Translated by Federica De Zottis