March 5th, 2014
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.
Why the door was left Open for Ducati
Dorna’s Open plan is to get all the factories using their software to make MotoGP racing closer and safer. Open this, Open that, Open the other; that was all everyone was talking about at Sepang last week.
Aleix Espargaró ended the test at the sharp end and ahead of three of the four Factory-spec Yamahas on his Open-spec YZR-M1. It will be a huge thrill to have Espargaró battling up front, putting a few factory noses out of joint.
The even bigger deal at Sepang was Ducati deciding it’s no longer a factory team but is instead an Open team. Honda and Yamaha are raging about this because the whole point of the Open regs was to give poorer privateer teams a helping hand, not to help one factory outflank the others.
It is finally official. Yamaha have today announced that they have signed a five-year deal with Spanish telecommunications company Movistar to act as title sponsor for the factory Yamaha team. The deal will see Movistar branding appear prominently on fairings, leathers, team uniform, team trucks, etc, and the team be called Movistar Yamaha MotoGP.
The deal had been rumored since the start of the year, and had been confirmed unofficially last week, when Movistar presented its TV schedules. But the formal announcement came only today, when the Spanish firm unveiled the price structure for its pay-per-view offering in Madrid. The contract had been a long time in the making, as a conflict over fairing space with sponsor Monster, who had signed a two-year deal with team at the beginning of last season. According to reports in Spanish magazine Solomoto, appearing on the US website Sport Rider, Yamaha Racing boss Lin Jarvis had flown to the US to help settle the deal with Monster. This was key, as Movistar is both offering much more money than Monster - the Sport Rider report claims it is twice as much - but the deal is also for a longer period, stretching for five years, while the Monster contract expires at the end of this year.
Press releases after the second day of the tire test at Phillip Island:
The tire test at Phillip Island continues, with a selection of MotoGP and Moto2 riders putting new specs of tires from Bridgestone and Dunlop through their paces in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the fiasco of last October. After the first day of testing, where the riders tested a large selection of various compounds and constructions, the second day of testing concentrated on the tires which showed the most promise from the short runs on Monday.
Though Jorge Lorenzo was fastest on the day, his time was still over a second off the lap record set by Marc Marquez in October. But fast times were less important than tire enduranc, and Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow all posted long runs towards the end of the day. Pedrosa managed 20 laps, or just over two-thirds race distance, while Rossi and Crutchlow both did runs of half race distance. Lap times were consistent, with little drop off towards the end. Bridgestone were very happy with the data, and have narrowed the selection down to three possible tires, and hoping to leave with just two options for development ready for the race in October. Jordi Torres did a race simulation on the Moto2 Dunlops, but the tire did not produce the lap times which Dunlop had hoped. The data was useful nonetheless, as it provides further input for development.
Press releases at the end of the first day of the tire test at Phillip Island:
Times from Monday:
Italian rider Niccolo Antonelli was one of the revelations of Moto3 testing at Valencia and Jerez. Teammate Enea Bastianini was also notably quick. So the press release issued by the Go&Fun Gresini team featuring crew chiefs talking about the progress made so far with the KTM machines in preseason testing makes for interesting backround. The press release appears below:
MOTO3 PRE-SEASON TEST DEBRIEF WITH STEFANO RIMINUCCI AND FABRIZIO CECCHINI
Nine days of testing, divided equally between the circuits of Almeria, Valencia and Jerez have provided a first, interesting indication of the performance values ahead of the 2014 Moto3 World Championship campaign. During this trip across Spain, the Junior Team GO&FUN Moto3 has became soon a protagonist, being costantly at the top of the timesheets: during all the testing sessions, Niccolò Antonelli has been always in the top three positions, resulting the fastest over the three days spent at Valencia.
The Repsol Honda team issued the following press release, announcing that they have secured the backing of Indonesian Honda distributor PT Astra Honda Motor for the 2014 season, after a year of absence:
HRC celebrate new collaboration with PT Astra Honda Motor, Indonesia
In an effort to inspire young Indonesian riders to achieve their highest racing dreams, PT Astra Honda Motor (AHM) have partnered up with the Honda factory racing team, Repsol Honda.
The One HEART and Satu HATI logos will be displayed on Honda’s RC213V bike (having already featured since the first Sepang test) and also on the leather suits of team riders Marc Marquez – 2013 MotoGP World Champion – and Dani Pedrosa, for the 2014 season.
This partnership, which also existed in 2011 and 2012, demonstrates AHM’s commitment to growing grass roots motorsport in Indonesia and supporting the development of young riders on both a national and international level. The training of young riders will be conducted through the Honda Racing School (HRS), using Honda’s sport motorcycle the CB150R StreetFire, meanwhile the development of racing teams will be conducted through Honda Technical Racing Training.
The Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 team issued a press release reviewing progress in testing so far. The crew chiefs of Xavier Simeon and Lorenzo Baldassari talk about the steps made at the two tests in Spain, and look ahead to the season to come. The press release appears below:
MOTO2 PRE-SEASON TEST DEBRIEF WITH TOMMASO RAPONI AND DAVID JABAL
Throughout February, the Team Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 carried out the first major phase of winter testing in preparation of the 2014 World Championship campaign: despite being forced to miss both Almeria and Valencia test, due to the injury suffered last February 6, Xavier Siméon was able to make the most of the recent Jerez test. The Belgian rider, alongside his crew chief Tommaso Raponi, went down to business working on the 2014 Suter chassis set-up reaching soon a good feeling, confirmed by the ninth overall fastest time in the combined standings, but especially by a very steady pace over the long distance.
IODA Racing will field just Danilo Petrucci in MotoGP in 2014, leaving Leon Camier without a ride. Rumors of financial problems for the teams had been circulating for several days, but now IODA has confirmed officially that they are down to just a single rider.
The team will still be racing Aprilia ART machines entered under the Open regulations, but with just a single rider, progress will be slower. Danilo Petrucci has soldiered on with the team for the past two years, riding first the underpowered IODA machine using a stock Aprilia RSV4 engine, and then the Suter BMW which was quickly ditched by the teams which had been using it. Petrucci's patience has been rewarded with a much better machine in 2014, though the level of support Aprilia will be providing remains unclear.
Though the press release says that the team are working to find sponsorship to keep Camier on board, the Englishman will only be able to compete if he is effectively able to pay for his ride. If Camier cannot raise the funds, he will be forced to look for other options, but in a difficult market, those options are severely limited, and he could be forced to take a year out of racing.
The big news on the final day of testing at Sepang was not what was happening on track, but rather what was happening off track. The announcement – trailed here and all around the media since early January – that Ducati would switch to the Open category was the talk of the paddock. And social media. And bike racing forums. And biking bars around the world, I expect. Even though we knew this was coming, it is only now becoming clear just how much of a game changer this decision is.
The announcement was timed curiously, made at the end of the day when the bosses of Yamaha and Honda had already left the circuit and were unavailable to the press. Likewise, the press room had largely emptied out. It appeared to have been made to minimize the impact, especially on the other manufacturers. Honda and Yamaha now have a couple of days to gather their PR might and put together a carefully worded position on the move by Ducati, which will both give the impression they are entirely disinterested in what Ducati have decided to do, while at the same time exuding a vague air of disapproval. Expect to see the verb 'to disappoint' in various conjugations.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone at the conclusion of the final day of testing at Sepang:
With Ducati having elected to switch to racing as an Open entry in the MotoGP class, it is time for a quick refresher course on the rules. Below is a primer on the key differences between racing as an Open entry and racing as a Factory Option entry, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Factory Option: Factory Option bikes have 20 liters of fuel, and 5 engines to last the season. No engine development is allowed, the engine specifications being frozen before the first race in Qatar. Factories have to supply template engines with specifications of all parts at the race, those parts must remain unchanged. Development is frozen on parts not accessible when engine is sealed. In short, this means engine internals, crankshaft, crankcases, cams, valves, pistons, conrods, etc. Gearboxes can still be modified. Engine specifications must be identical within teams. This means that engines for Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez must be identical, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi's engines must be identical, Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro's engines must be identical.
Testing is also limited for Factory Option teams. They can take part in all official tests (the three one-day tests after Jerez, Barcelona and Brno) and on five days at a nominated circuit.