In the fifth part of our season review of 2014, we turn to the Espargaro brothers. Both Pol and Aleix had excellent seasons, impressing many with their speed. If you would like to read the four previous parts of our season review, they are here: Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.
6th - 136 points - Pol Espargaro
Being a MotoGP rookie got a lot tougher after 2013. Marc Márquez raised the bar to an almost unattainable level by winning his second ever MotoGP race, the title in his debut season, and smash a metric cartload of records. Anyone entering the class after Márquez inevitably ends up standing in his shadow.
Which is a shame, as it means that Pol Espargaro's rookie season has not received the acclaim it deserves. The 2013 Moto2 champion started off the season on the back foot, breaking his collarbone at the final test, just a couple of weeks before the first race at Qatar. He crashed again during that opening race, but quickly found his feet. He came up just short of his first podium at Le Mans, nudged back to fourth place by Alvaro Bautista.
It would be his best result of the season, but the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider was to be consistently found in and around the top six. Espargaro would go on to bag a couple of fifth places and six sixth spots. That is where he would end the year, sixth in the championship behind the factory Hondas and Yamahas, and the factory Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso. Ignoring the exception that is Marc Márquez, it was the best start to a season by a rookie since Ben Spies joined the premier class in 2010. The Texan did secure two podiums that year, and fairly comprehensively outscored Pol Espargaro in comparison.
Though tracks around the world have fallen silent over the winter break, testing is due to resume shortly. From mid-January, the World Superbike teams will resume their preparations for the 2015 season at circuits in Spain and Portugal. Testing starts at Portimao, where the Pata Honda team will be the first to hit the track on 14th January. The team then moves to the Motorland Aragon circuit near Alcañiz, where they will be joined by Kawasaki and Grillini, before the action moves back to Portimao for a test including Ducati, BMW Italian, Suzuki, MV Agusta, Althea Ducati and EBR.
After Portimao, the teams head east to Jerez, where from 26th January the circuit will see Ducati, Red Devils, MV Agusta, BMW Italia, Honda, Suzuki, Althea Ducati and EBR joined by the Kawasaki World Supersport team and Ducati's MotoGP test team. A day later, the Kawasaki World Superbike squad will take to the track. From then, they pack up ready to fly the teams and equipment to the Southern Hemisphere, ready for the start of the season at Phillip Island. Testing for the MotoGP class resumes on 4th February at Sepang.
Full private testing schedule for the World Superbike class, as announced so far:
After looking at the top three finishers in MotoGP, our review of 2014 turns to the riders who didn't make it onto the podium. After Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, we turn our attention to the men who finished behind them. Today, we review the seasons of Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.
4th - 246 points - Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa is easily the best rider never to win a MotoGP title, and if anything, 2014 merely reinforced that reputation. By almost anyone's standards, ten podiums, including a victory, and a total of 246 points – his fourth best since joining the premier class – is an outstanding year. But for a rider with aspirations of becoming world champion, it is simply not good enough.
Looked at another way, this was the worst season Pedrosa has had in MotoGP. The Repsol Honda rider has always managed to score multiple victories each year, even during his debut in 2006. This year, he never really looked a threat, except at Brno. Throughout the year, Pedrosa was consistently behind the front runners, never capable of making a push to dominate.
What was Pedrosa's biggest problem in 2014? Quite simply, the team's approach to fixing the shortcomings of the preceding season. In 2013, Pedrosa had found himself coming up short in the second half of races, getting overhauled by either Marc Márquez or Jorge Lorenzo. Over the winter, his crew, under chief mechanic Mike Leitner, had worked on a strategy to counter this situation, adjusting the balance of the bike to make it faster during the second half of the race.
To kick off the first year of their return to MotoGP, Suzuki have released a video documenting the latest steps on their way back to the premier class. The video offers a fascinating view into the process of getting ready for 2015: it shows testing going on in the wind tunnel and on the dyno, covers Randy De Puniet's wildcard appearance at Valencia, and then the first ride of the 2015 factory pairing of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales.
Lasting 7 minutes, it offers a few interesting glances of things fans do not often get to see, such as footage of the work going on in the wind tunnel, and the collaboration between test riders and engineers. Most interesting of all are the first reactions of Espargaro and Viñales once they get off the bike after riding it for the first time. As a MotoGP rookie, Viñales' first reaction is one of pure pleasure at riding a bike with so much power. For the more experienced Espargaro, it is not about what is right with the bike, but what is wrong, and where it needs improvement. It is a peek into the life of a professional motorcycle racer, and how they approach their sport.
December 31st, 2014
We wish all of our readers a very Happy New Year, and good health, happiness, and success in 2015!
Thanks to all our readers for your support in 2014. We hope you have enjoyed our coverage of MotoGP and World Superbikes this year, and will continue to support us again in 2015. A special thanks to everyone who has become a site supporter and taken out a subscription, without your financial support we would have had to stop a long time ago. Thanks also to everyone who bought a calendar in 2014, and who bought one for 2015, the proceeds from calendar sales are also a key factor in keeping the site running. If you woud like to support us, you can buy a 2015 calendar here, or join the growing band of site supporters. Thanks also to the many people who donated money to keep the site running, their contributions made a big difference.
Thanks to Pole Position Travel for their continuing support, to Alpinestars for their help and assistance, to all of the riders, mechanics, team managers, press officers who helped us keep you informed throughout the year. Thanks also to the staff in the many hospitality units who kept us supplied with coffee (essential fuel for a sports writer!), snacks and food. Thanks to the staff at Dorna, who provided many essential services behind the scenes, and to the staff at circuits around the world, who are almost unfailingly helpful.
The third part of our review of the 2014 season, in which we take a look at the top 10 finishers in MotoGP, sees us turn to Jorge Lorenzo, the man who took the final spot on the 2014 MotoGP podium:
3rd - 263 points - Jorge Lorenzo
If Marc Márquez' season was one of two halves, then Jorge Lorenzo's 2014 was doubly so. The 2010 and 2012 world champion ended the first half of the season in fifth place overall, 128 points down on the leader Marc Márquez. By season's end, Lorenzo was third, having outscored Márquez by 29 points. If Lorenzo hadn't gambled on a tire change at the last race at Valencia, the difference would have been even greater: in the eight races before Valencia, Lorenzo had outscored Márquez by 54 points in total.
It all went wrong for Jorge Lorenzo during the winter. The Movistar Yamaha rider was under the surgeon's knife three times during the winter break to fix some minor problems and remove old metalwork, most notably from the collarbone he broke in 2013. That made putting together a training schedule more difficult than usual, and Lorenzo's fitness, usually his strong point, took a nosedive.
He arrived at the Sepang tests so badly out of shape that he did not fit into his leathers. Not only did he have to contend with being four or five kilograms overweight, he also had to deal with new tires from Bridgestone and a Yamaha M1 which was struggling with a liter less fuel. The tires – identical to 2013, but now using the heat-resistant layer which had previously only been used at a couple of rounds – lacked the same feel on the edge of the tire, making it more difficult for Lorenzo to maintain his high corner speed style. This was made worse by the nervous throttle response of the Yamaha with less fuel, making it even harder to control the bike. Lorenzo's style requires a massive amount of energy at the best of times. With two factors making it even worse, there was no way an out-of-shape Lorenzo was going to be competitive for any longer than a single lap.
For the next part of our review of the 2014 season, we continue our count down of the top 10 finishers in MotoGP. After yesterday's look at Marc Marquez, today we turn our attention to the runner up in the 2014 MotoGP championship, Valentino Rossi:
2nd - 295 points - Valentino Rossi
Six races. That was the deadline Valentino Rossi had given himself. After the first six races, he would make a decision on whether he was still fast enough, or it was time to hang up his leathers. The goal was to be fighting for podiums and wins. If he could not do that, he felt he did not want to be racing. The fact that the sixth race of the season was at Mugello was ominous. If you had to choose a place for Valentino Rossi to announce his retirement, that would be it.
The season started off well, with a second place at Qatar, but with Marc Márquez just back from a broken leg, Jorge Lorenzo crashing out, and Dani Pedrosa struggling for grip, that didn't quite feel like a true measure of his ability. Texas was a disaster, with severe tire wear, then at Argentina, Rossi came home in fourth, just as he had done so often last year. His string of fourth places in 2013 were what had prompted Rossi's doubts about carrying on, so many journalists and fans feared his mind was made up.
As 2014 draws to a close and 2015 approaches, it is time to take a look back at the 2014 season. Over the next few days, we'll be reviewing the performances of the top 10 riders in the 2014 MotoGP championship, commenting on notable riders outside the top 10, and discussing the cream of Moto2 and Moto3. First, the top 10 MotoGP men, starting with with the 2014 champion:
1st - 362 points - Marc Márquez
By the end of 2013, Marc Márquez had convinced just about everyone that he was the real deal. The doubters who remained held on to a single argument: first, let's see if he can repeat. Winning a championship may be incredibly hard, defending it is doubly so. In the past twenty years, only Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi have done so.
Things started inauspiciously, Márquez breaking a leg while training at the dirt track oval in Rufea, near where he lives. With five weeks to recover before the first race at Qatar, and forced to miss testing at Sepang and Phillip Island, this was far from ideal preparation. It did not matter, though: Márquez held off a resurgent Valentino Rossi while others crashed out, and won an exciting first race of the season. As his injured leg recovered, so Márquez got better, winning by comfortable margins at Austin, Argentina, Jerez and Le Mans. The fans and media talked of records, by Doohan and Agostini, and the prospect of a perfect season – winning all eighteen races – started to be discussed.
The very first signs of weakness appeared at Mugello. After making it six poles from six races, Márquez fought a tough battle to hold off Jorge Lorenzo for the win. Another tough race followed at Barcelona, while Márquez took advantage of the conditions to win at Assen and the Sachsenring. But missing out on pole position at Barcelona and Assen started to stifle talk of a perfect season, despite Márquez still having a 100% win record.
Updated World Superbike Rules: Balancing And Electronics Clarified, And A New Global Entry Class Mooted
At the last meeting of the Superbike Commission, the body which makes the rules for the World Superbike series, representatives of Dorna, the FIM and the factories agreed a number of measures which provide yet another step on the path to the future of the series. There were a couple of minor technical updates, and two changes which point the way to the series' long term future.
The changes to the technical regulations were relatively simple. The balancing rules, aimed at allowing different engine designs to be competitive against each other, received a number of minor tweaks resulting from the fact that those rules will now be carried on from one season to the next. In practice, this means that results for either twins or fours will be carried over between seasons, creating a rolling balancing scoreboard, which should create a better balance between fours and twins.
The other change to the technical rules allow a manufacturer to revert to their 2014 electronics for the first two races of 2015, should the 2015 electronics cause them problems. Basically, this will give the teams a fallback position and give them a little more time to develop the electronics. As the first two round are in Australia and Thailand, the risk of struggling with a system which is not completely ready to race during a period when it is impossible to test has been reduced.
MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Andorra-gate will make Márquez faster
If any of Marc Márquez’s MotoGP rivals were gloating while he suffered the slings and arrows of Andorra-gate, they should wipe their schadenfreude smiles off their faces.
In case you aren’t up to speed with this Andorra business, Márquez’s decision to move to the tax haven on the French/Spanish border triggered a torrent of abuse from fans, almost 50,000 of whom signed a petition requesting his sponsors to withdraw their backing.
The reaction caught MotoGP’s golden boy by surprise, which he made public during a tearful (without doubt genuine, not crocodile) press conference before the recent Barcelona dirt track event.