Archive - News Item
October 20th, 2014
The resurfacing of Phillip Island at the start of 2013 caused a massive problem in both MotoGP and Moto2 during last year's Australian Grand Prix. The vastly improved surface saw lap times drop and corner speeds go up dramatically. Marc Marquez' fastest race lap of the circuit was just over 2 seconds faster than Casey Stoner's best race lap the previous year, and just under Nicky Hayden's lap record of the circuit, which had stood since 2008.
The radically faster surface led to much greater heat build up in the tires, with the rear tires of both Moto2 and MotoGP bikes showing severe and dangerous degradation. The problems forced both Moto2 and MotoGP to be drastically reduced in length, the Moto2 race slashed from 25 to 13 laps, and the MotoGP race cut from 27 to 19 laps, with the added complication of being forced to come in and swap bikes, and hence rear tires. The compulsory pit stop caused a good deal of confusion, eventually leading to the disqualification of Marc Marquez for missing the compulsory pit window.
To avoid a repeat of the situation, both Dunlop and Bridgestone are bringing new tires to the track, with much harder compounds. Both tire manufacturers have been hard at work designing tires to cope with the surface, based on data collected at a test here in March, where the factory Honda, Yamaha and Ducati riders, along with two top Moto2 teams tested a large range of tires. Dunlop and Bridgestone are both now confident that their tires will last the full duration of the race without any major problems.
Randy De Puniet is to make a return to racing full time. As had been rumored for some weeks now, the Frenchman is to make the switch to the World Superbike series, where he will join the Crescent Suzuki team for 2015. De Puniet will race alongside Alex Lowes next year, aboard the Suzuki GSX-R1000.
After losing his ride with the Aspar team at the end of 2013, De Puniet has spent 2014 as Suzuki's official test rider, helping to develop the bike now dubbed the GSX-RR. The only racing action he had seen was with the Yoshimura team during the Suzuka 8 Hour race, where he finished in second place with teammates Josh Waters and Takuya Tsuda. But De Puniet was keen to return to racing full time, and with no vacancies in MotoGP, the World Superbike series was the obvious choice. Racing with the Crescent team allows him to stay with Suzuki as a test rider, and retain his strong ties with the Japanese factories.
Alongside his duties in WSBK, De Puniet will continue development work on the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP machine, with a particular focus on 2016. De Puniet will mainly be working on getting the GSX-RR to work with the Michelin tires, due to replace Bridgestone at the start of the 2016 season. He will also be helping to make the bike work with the so-called unified software which is to be introduced at the same time.
The events of the previous MotoGP race at Aragon look set to have a major impact on tracks around the world in the near future. The crashes by Valentino Rossi and Andrea Iannone, both of whom lost control of their bikes when they hit the still wet astroturf which lines the outside of the outer kerbs, caused the subject to be raised in the MotoGP Safety Commission at Motegi. There, the Safety Commission decided to ask the circuits hosting MotoGP races to remove all of the astroturf from the run off areas around the track. Dorna Managing Director Javier Alonso told the MotoGP.com website that they would start talks with circuits to get them to remove the astroturf as soon as possible, starting with the most dangerous parts of the tracks.
The decision is a complete reversal of the earlier policy devised by the Safety Commission, the closed and private forum in which MotoGP riders can discuss safety issues and other concerns with the FIM and Dorna. As a result of a previous request, tracks had started putting in astroturf on the run off areas. That was in response to changes made primarily for car racing, where gravel traps on the outside of corners have been replaced with hard standing, such as asphalted areas. The astroturf was put in place to prevent riders using the run off as extra race track, allowing them to take corners faster.
The difference between a handshake an an officially signed contract is just under four weeks, it seems. Late on Sunday night after the race at Misano, the Marc VDS Racing team put a message on Twitter announcing they would be moving up to MotoGP for the next two years, racing a factory-backed Honda RC213V with Scott Redding aboard. Honda, however, was far from pleased with the team's adoption of 21st Century technology to communicate with fans and media, and the Tweet was quickly taken down. Though agreement had been reached at Misano on all of the details - a three-year deal to lease a factory-spec Honda RC213V, and putting Scott Redding on the bike for the 2015 and 2016 seasons - HRC deemed that the deal was not yet ready to be announced. Though the contract was public knowledge, the team went silent on the deal.
With new technical regulations set to come into effect for the 2015 season in World Superbikes, the Superbike Commission has decided to lift its customary testing ban. Instead of testing being prohibited for the months of December and January, the World Superbike and World Supersport teams will be allowed to continue testing, with only a short break over the holiday period. Testing will no be banned from 21st December 2014 to 4th January 2015.
The change was made at the request of the teams. With the technical regulations undergoing a radical overhaul for the 2015 season, the teams felt they needed a lot more testing time to identify and fix problems with the new bikes. Extracting sufficient horsepower while maintaining reliability, to comply with the limited engine allocation, had been a major concern. The extended period gives the teams a little more time to prepare for the 2015 season.
The current change has only been made for the 2015 season. With the rules set to stabilize for the future, a test ban is likely to be reinstated for the winter of 2015/2016.
You can read the text of the press release announcing the change on the FIM website (PDF document).
With MotoGP's silly season for 2015 nearing its conclusion, we can draw up a list of contracts signed for next year and beyond. Below is who is going where for 2015, along with what they will be riding and how long their contracts are for:
Loris Baz has finally found his place in MotoGP. After being signed and then disposed of by the Aspar team, the Forward Racing team finally announced that they have signed the 21-year-old Frenchman for the 2015 season. Baz will line up alongside Stefan Bradl on board the Open class Forward Yamaha. The Forward Yamaha will be close to a 2014 spec satellite Yamaha M1, but using the Open software.
Baz' path into the premier class has not been easy. He was in talks with Aspar for several weeks, eventually signing a precontract which depended on Aspar not being able to sign Scott Redding. Once that deadline passed, Aspar the refused to honor the precontract, citing Baz' height - said to be 1.92m - as a reason to reject him.
When problems appeared with the Aspar deal, Baz turned to the Forward team, who were more willing to overlook his height. At a press conference at Aragon, where Forward and Yamaha presented their 2015 project, Yamaha boss told the press that he could not see Baz' height being a problem on the Yamaha.
MotoAmerica, the organization which replaces the DMG in running the US AMA series, has given their first peek into the future, by announcing the rules package. Though still not finalized, the package does give a very clear indication of MotoAmerica and KRAVE's thinking, and the direction they wish to steer motorcycle racing in America in.
Four classes have been announced, with two more currently being weighed. The series will feature two superbike classes, Superbike and Superstock 1000, which will run concurrently. There will also be two middleweight classes, Supersport and Superstock 600, which replace Daytona Sportbike and the Supersport series.
For the moment, the four classes will be very similar to the classes they replace, with the exception of Superstock 1000, which will be run along the same lines as the FIM Superstock 1000. But MotoAmerica make it very clear in their press release that the eventual goal is to bring the Superbike, Supersport and Superstock 600 rules used at the world championship level, with the aim of bringing more American talent to world championship racing.
Another piece of the MotoGP puzzle has been fixed into place. It was widely known that Eugene Laverty would be riding a production Honda for the Drive M7 Aspar team in MotoGP next year, but official confirmation of the fact only came today. Laverty is to line up alongside Nicky Hayden aboard the uprated production Honda, now called the RC213V-RS, taking the place of Hiroshi Aoyama.
Laverty's path into the Aspar team was far from straightforward. The Irishman had been in talks with Aspar, who at the time were also talking to replacement rider Leon Camier and Frenchman Loris Baz. Aspar then signed a precontract with both Baz and Laverty, subject to the condition that Aspar could not secure the services of Scott Redding. Once the deadline for Redding's signature passed, Aspar found themselves with two contracts on their hands. They quickly moved to break the contract with Baz, declaring that they had not known that the Frenchman was 1.92m, despite the fact that Baz' height is a matter of public knowledge. That left Laverty in line to take the seat at Aspar, despite having offers from Ducati to ride at Pramac, and having had talks with Forward Yamaha.
While the rider line up for the MotoGP is very near to being settled, there are still a lot of things up in the air in the Moto3 class. Though the teams were all required to submit their official entries, and pay a deposit to secure their rides at Aragon, there were only a few official announcements by the end of the weekend. Enough, however, to make a rundown of the latest developments for the 2013 season.
Though this year's title protagonists will be moving on to better things - Jack Miller to MotoGP, Alex Marquez and Alex Rins to Moto2 - the Red Bull KTM and Estrella Galicia teams are likely to be at the forefront in 2015 as well. With the Red Bull KTM team having signed Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder, they are the team which looks most likely to be fighting for the title, against Team Sky VR46's Romano Fenati. The Estrella Galicia team will have a couple of rookies in Fabio Quartararo and Maria Herrera, while Jorge Navarro will have learned a great deal during his first half season in Moto3 replacing Livio Loi.
One of the last few pieces of the rider puzzle for 2015 has slotted into place. Today, Pramac Racing confirmed that they have reached agreement with Danilo Petrucci to race for them for the next two seasons. Petrucci will race the Desmosedici alongside Yonny Hernandez in 2015 and 2016.
The move had been widely expected, with Pramac keen to have at least one Italian rider in the team for the sake of their sponsors. Andrea Iannone had been a useful asset for the team, and they needed an Italian to replace him. The other riders linked to that ride - Loris Baz and Eugene Laverty - were less attractive to Pramac's Italian sponsors.
With the second seat at Pramac taken, that leaves just four seats unfilled. Eugene Laverty is believed to have signed to take the seat at Aspar Honda alongside Nicky Hayden, while Loris Baz is close to a deal with Forward Racing to race the Open Yamaha alongside Stefan Bradl. Only the second seat at Gresini Aprilia, and the second slot at Avintia, aboard the Open Ducati remain unfilled.
Suzuki have revealed yet another of MotoGP's worst-kept secrets (and the competition has been tough for that claim this year) at the Intermot motorcycle show in Cologne, Germany, officially confirming that they will be returning to MotoGP from next season, after an absence of three seasons. Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio unveiled the latest version of Suzuki's MotoGP bike - now dubbed GSX-RR - and announced that Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales will race for the team. At the same time, Suzuki also confirmed that Randy De Puniet will race as a wildcard on the bike at the final MotoGP round of the season at Valencia.
The official announcement had been a long time coming, despite the riders and team being an open secret. The wait had been down to a request from Suzuki headquarters at Japan, who had wanted to combine the team launch with the launch of Suzuki's 2015 road bike line up at the Intermot show. The presence of senior Suzuki staff at the launch was seen by the team as a powerful display of support by the Japanese factory.