November 8th, 2013
MotoGP rookie and championship points leader Marc Marquez pounced at the end of FP1 at the Valencia circuit Friday to set a fast lap of 1'31.557, a mere 18-thousanths faster than second-fastest rider Jorge Lorenzo. In this case, that .018 must feel like an hour for Lorenzo who sits second in the championship and needs to finish Sunday's final race of the 2013 season several places in front of his Spanish rival if he is to win the championship. Dani Pedrosa's 1'31.581 took third fastest, another six-thousandths behind Lorenzo.
The surprise of the session was an improving Bradley Smith who put his Tech 3 Yamaha into the fourth slot, a little more than one-tenth of a second faster than Valentino Rossi, in fifth.
The championship leaders all wanted to make a statement in the first free practice at the Valencia circuit in Spain. Luis Salom, current points leader, spoke the loudest with a fast lap of 1'40.403, a time that puts him two-tenths of a second clear of second fastest and second in the championship Maverick Vinales. Jonas Folger ended FP1 as third fastest, one tenth ahead of Alex Rins. Rookie Rins, third in the championship, sits six-tenths behind Salom in what should prove to be an exciting and likely hard-fought final race of 2013. A mere five points separates the top three riders going into the 17th Moto3 race of the season.
Valentino Rossi has decided to seek a new crew chief. After 14 seasons working together, in which the pair have amassed 7 world championships, Rossi and Jeremy Burgess are to part ways, and Yamaha are actively seeking a replacement for the Australian veteran. Rossi had taken the decision after a disappointing season with Yamaha, after being unable to match the pace of his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, and Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa.
'It is true that next year Jerry won't be my chief mechanic,' Rossi told the press conference. The decision had not been taken lightly, he said. 'It was a very difficult decision for me because I have a great history with Jeremy. He is not just my chief mechanic. He is like part of my family. My father in racing.' Rossi felt he had been forced to make a decision to try to make a change, to regain his competitiveness. 'I've decided for next year I need to change something to try to find new motivation and to have a boost to improve my level, my speed. So this will be my last race together with Jeremy.'
Honda today officially unveiled one of the most eagerly anticipated motorcycles of recent years, and a key bike in the future of MotoGP. At the Valencia circuit, Honda unveiled the Honda RCV1000R, their production MotoGP racer, for entry in the Open class, which is to replace the CRT class for last year. The bike is a close sibling of the factory Honda RC213V raced by Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl, with a few modifications to make the bike cheaper to produce. This means that while the engine configuration is identical - a 90° V4 - the engine runs conventional metal valve springs rather than the pneumatic valves run by the factory bikes, and a conventional gearbox rather than a seamless transmission. The chassis geometry is also identical, though there are minor differences in chassis stiffness between the two bikes.
The RCV1000R will run the spec Magneti Marelli hardware and Dorna software, rather than Honda's custom and highly complex electronics package run on the factory bikes. One sign of that was the lack of torque sensor on the bike output shaft which is used on the factory Honda. The bike will have a 24 liter fuel allowance, though Honda do not expect to need that fuel. They will also have 12 engines to last a season, instead of the 5 allowed for factory entries.
Mixed emotions greet the final race of most MotoGP seasons. There is sadness at the prospect of four months or more without racing. There is interest and expectation, as fans look past the race weekend to the test which immediately follows, when the bikes for next year appear and the riders switching teams get their first shot at a new ride. And there is excitement of course, at the prospect of a race to wrap up the season. But with the title usually already decided in advance, there is only pride at stake, and not much more to play for.
This year, it's different. Yes, the test on Monday is a big deal, with Cal Crutchlow's debut on the Ducati, the Honda production racer making its first appearance, with Nicky Hayden on board, and the Aleix Espargaro giving the Yamaha production racer its first run out. But for the first time since 2006, the Valencia race really matters, and will decide who gets to crown themselves champion. Just 13 points separate Marc Marquez from Jorge Lorenzo, and the two men who have dominated the season cannot afford to make a mistake. Both come determined to do whatever it takes to get the job done at Valencia.
There have been an awful lot of good Moto3 races this year. So many, in fact, that it's hard to pick out a single one for particular praise. But the final round at Valencia could very well be the best of the year. Moto3 riders are not known for riding conservatively or with undue caution at the best of times, but with the championship up for grabs at Valencia and the top three riders involved in a three-way winner-takes-all shootout for the title, this could be a real heart stopper. Cardiologists around the world will be rubbing their hands with glee at the amount of extra business they are about to generate.
The mathematics of the situation is simple. Just five points separate Luis Salom, who leads the championship, from Alex Rins, who is third, while Maverick Viñales is two points behind Salom and three ahead of Rins. If either Salom or Viñales win, they take the title with an outright points advantage; if Rins wins and Salom is second, the two men are tied on points and on the number of wins, but Rins is crowned champion based on the number of second place finishes he has scored. If none of the three men leading the championship win, then it all gets a lot more complicated - see the full breakdown here - but it comes down to the fact that the first of the three across the line will take the championship.
The chances of one of Luis Salom, Maverick Viñales or Alex Rins not winning is surprisingly slim. Between them, the three men who have dominated the Moto3 series in 2013 have won 16 of the 17 races, and occupying 39 of the 48 podium positions so far. Only three other men have joined the leading trio on the podium, with Alex Marquez, Jonas Folger and Miguel Oliviera the awkward interlopers. Marquez is the only rider to win a race, and even then, he was assisted by Rins and Salom taking themselves out of contention.
There is a lot of fascinating news coming out of this week's EICMA motorcycle show in Milan: the boom in smaller capacity motorcycles, an upgraded Fireblade, a massive push from MV Agusta, details of which can be found on our favorite general motorcycling website Asphalt & Rubber. But the show is also making headlines which will affect motorcycle racing as well.
Today at the EICMA, during a presentation on Aprilia's future plans, Piaggio CEO Roberto Colaninno announced that the Italian manufacturer is aiming to make a return to the MotoGP class as a factory entry in 2016. The goal, Colaninno told his audience, was 'to achieve the same success we have enjoyed in World Superbikes', while recognizing that the factory had two years of hard work ahead of them. The aim is for Aprilia to race in MotoGP from 2016 with a pure prototype machine, according to GPone.com, with the objective of winning races.
For the first time in a long time, the MotoGP circus heads to the final race of the year at Valencia with not one, but two championships still undecided (and if there hadn't been that first-lap incident in the Moto2 race at Motegi, it could even have been three). The title is still to be decided in both the MotoGP and Moto3 championships, and the possible mathematical permutations are having race fans and followers racking their brains trying to work out who needs to finish where for either Marc Marquez or Jorge Lorenzo to win the MotoGP title, or Luis Salom, Maverick Viñales or Alex Rins to lift the Moto3 crown.
To assist with this computation, we have drawn up two tables with all of the possible permutations, one for the MotoGP class, and one for the Moto3 class. Using the tables below, you can see all of the possibilities the two MotoGP men and three Moto3 riders have to win the title in their respective classes.
With the uncertainty surrounding the World Superbike series easing up, the outlines of the 2014 season are starting to become clear. The test after the final round of the 2013 season at Jerez turned into an audition for some of the riders, with riders still searching for a team for next season.
In the days since that test, news has been emerging of rider signings and team plans for 2014. While both the Pata Honda and factory Kawasaki line ups were known, the future of the Aprilia and Ducati teams was still uncertain, with doubts over whether one or both of the Italian factories might pull out of World Superbikes. Ducati confrmed their intention to continue in 2014 earlier this week, while today, Aprilia have also stated their intention to keep racing next year. Aprilia have also confirmed the signing of Marco Melandri, something which had long been expected. Melandri will line up alongside Sylvain Guintoli for the 2014 season.
Danny Kent is to return to the Red Bull KTM Ajo team in Moto3 for 2014. The move had been widely anticipated after Kent made the surprise announcement after the Aragon round that he was to leave the Tech 3 Moto2 team. Kent rejoins the Ajo Moto3 team aiming to compete for wins and the Moto3 title, and completes a very strong rider line up in the team. Kent will be teammates with Australian sensation Jack Miller, and the highly regarded Red Bull Rookies Cup winner Karel Hanika. Zulfahmi Khairuddin, currently inside the Red Bull KTM Ajo team, will be shifted out to the one-rider structure currently occupied by Niklas Ajo, with Air Asia backing.
The KTM Ajo team will be one of the favorites for the 2014 Moto3 title, with the Estrella Galicia 0,0 team being the other. That team, run by Emilio Alzamora, will field Alex Marquez and, if he doesn't win the Moto3 championship next Sunday at Valencia, Alex Rins, though they will be switching from KTM to Honda, with HRC building a brand new, far more powerful Moto3 machine to take on the mighty KTMs.
Other teams to watch in 2014 include the Gresini squad, who will be switching to KTM and fielding Isaac Vinales and Niccolo Antonelli, Team Sky (the VR46-backed team run by Vitto Guareschi) with Romano Fenati, and possibly Team Calvo, if they can secure the services of Miguel Oliveira.
Casey Stoner has concluded three days of testing at the Sugo circuit in Japan. The retired champion managed to put in a lot of laps in dry conditions, after previous tests he has participated in have been rained off. Stoner tested both the 2013 and 2014 Honda RC213V, but the Australian ran out of time to do further testing on Honda's RCV1000R production racer.
HRC issued a press release after the test was completed, which appears below:
Casey Stoner completes productive three day test at Sugo Circuit
HRC test rider and two time World Champion Casey Stoner has completed a gruelling three day test at Sportsland Sugo, Miyagi Prefecture. On this occasion the testing was held in good conditions with rain arriving only after lunch on day three, when the test programme was completed.
The 3.737 km facility played host to the HRC test team as Casey worked on the 2013 and 2014 RC213V prototype machine. He tested various items including a new frame and new engine. However, he did not have time to complete more test time on the Production Racer, instead these duties were left to Takumi Takahsahi.
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.
What might happen in MotoGP at Valencia
Who remembers the last time the MotoGP World Championship went down to the wire? Of course you do, it was Valencia 2006, the last hurrah of the 990s and the greatest day of the MotoGP era so far. Valentino Rossi went into the race as sure-fire title favourite, eight points ahead of Nicky Hayden, who had lost the series lead at the previous race when team-mate Dani Pedrosa took him out.
We all know what happened at Valencia that day: Hayden barged past Rossi on the way into the first corner and set off after the Ducatis, while Rossi got stuck in the pack and slid off at a 50mph hairpin. He rejoined the race but it was already game over.
After a disastrous outing at Phillip Island, Bridgestone returned to Motegi better armed to deal with the circumstances. The weather did its best to prevent the race from happening, but Bridgestone's tires handled the circumstances well. In the traditional post-race debrief press release, Shinji Aoki explains how well Bridgestone's tires worked in the wet, and how their strategy of providing more tire choice to the riders, by producing two tire choices they can use, worked well enough at Motegi to have both compounds on the podium.
Japanese MotoGP™ debrief with Shinji Aoki
Wednesday 30 October 2013
Bridgestone slick compounds: Front: Soft & Medium. Rear: Super-soft (Asymmetric) Extra-soft (Symmetric) & Soft (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds: Soft (Main) & Hard (Alternative)
Last Sunday, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo won his second consecutive race after taking victory at the Japanese Grand Prix ahead of Repsol Honda duo Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa.
Poor weather conditions resulted in all Friday practice sessions being cancelled, with the MotoGP™ riders getting their first taste of action in a wet qualifying session on Saturday afternoon. Conditions improved for race day, with a dry track greeting riders for the twenty-four lap Japanese Grand Prix.
The Pata Honda team today issued the following press release, containing an interview with Jonathan Rea. In it, Rea discusses the leg injury he suffered in Germany, watching races at home, why he chose to remain with Honda, and his hopes for 2014:
Rea raring to go for 2014
Q&A with Pata Honda World Superbike rider Jonathan Rea
By his own admission, Jonathan Rea’s 2013 World Superbike season was not all that he would have wanted and, in spite of maintaining his record of scoring at least one race win in each of his five SBK seasons to date, it ended prematurely.
The 26-year-old was well-placed in race one at the Nürburgring in Germany on 1 September when he crashed at high speed on an expired machine’s oil. Rea broke his left femur in the crash and his season was over.
It was the second serious rider injury that the Pata Honda team suffered this season after Rea’s team-mate Leon Haslam broke his left tibia and fibula at Assen in The Netherlands in April.
Haslam returned to riding just four weeks later but his injury and its after-affects influenced the rest of his season and his own contribution to the development of the 2013 CBR1000RR.
The role that electronics plays in MotoGP cannot be underestimated. Every aspect of bike performance depends on how well the the systems monitoring the bikes read the data, interpret it and then modulate the power as it is applied to the road through the rear tire. Despite their performance, the systems which provide that control are kept carefully hidden from the public, and the people behind those systems remain anonymous.
Yamaha has sought to change this, producing a video spotlighting the work of Kazutoshi Seki, the engine control engineer for Valentino Rossi. The two have worked together at Yamaha since 2004, when Rossi first joined the factory, and again since Rossi's return after his two-year hiatus at Ducati. The video provides an insight into the role which Seki plays in helping to set up the bike for Rossi, and puts the passion and commitment the Japanese engineer pours into the sport. Despite being produced by Yamaha's global marketing department, it is a beautifully produced 14-minute portrait of one of the men so crucial to racing at this level. For more background on Seki and Yamaha, see the story behind the video on the Yamaha corporate website.