March 20th, 2014
Takaaki Nakagami grabbed the lead position in FP2 at the Losail Circuit Thursday with a 2'00.522 -- a time that not only put him clear of the field it also was three tenths better than Pol Espargaro's pole time from the previous year. Tito Rabat, who led much of the late session, finished in second only five hundredths back. Sandro Cortese grabbed third with a fast lap one-tenth of a second behind the leader. Mika Kallio, leader in FP1, managed only 10th in the second session. As nearly always is the case in Moto2, the field is tightly bunched with one second separating the top 15 riders.
Romano Fenati bettered his FP1 time and the entire Moto3 field with a 2'06.168 at the second practice Thursday at the Losail Circuit. As in the first session, Jacob Kornfeil held the second slot, closing within two-hundredths of a second on the leader. Jack Miller improved three places to take the third-best time at the day's final practice. Fenati didn't lead the entire sesion but he managed a fast lap late. Only a second separates the top 10 Moto 3 riders with practice to resume Friday.
Open class Yamaha rider Aleix Espargaro topped the charts to kick off the 2014 MotoGP season with a dominant time of 1'55.201, nearly half a second faster than second-place rider Alvaro Bautista on a satellite Honda. Another satellite rider, Yamaha's Bradley Smith, came in third, six-tenths back from the elder Espargaro. In fact, the salletite and open class riders dominated FP1 taking seven of the top-ten times. Satellite Ducati rider Andrea Iannone grabbed fourth and Tech 3 Yamaha's Pol Espargaro managed fifth. The fastest factory bike, Dani Pedrosa's Honda, claimed only sixth place at slightly more than a second back from the leader.
In part, this is because only the open class and satellite bikes tested at the Losail Circuit during the off-season and so arrived in Qatar with an approximate setup. But that does not entirely explain the difference in times and certainly doesn't entirely account for Espargaro's pace.
Mika Kallio made a late charge to take the top spot in the opening Moto2 practice of the 2014 season at the Losail Circuit in Qatar. Kallio's 2'01.46 put him one-tenth of a second clear of second place Thomas Luthi. Takaaki Nakagami, who led briefly during FP1, finished third at slightly more than a tenth back of Kallio. Moto2 favorite Tito Rabat came in fourth at the end of the session with Xavier Simeon in fifth. Last year's Moto3 champion, Maverick Vinales sits in eighth a half of a second from the top. All of the top times are similar to the Moto2 FP1 times from 2013.
Before even taking to the Losail Circuit in Qatar Thursday, Valentino Rossi had a reason to smile; His new Sky Racing Team VR46 rider Romano Fenati started the new season by setting the fast time in Moto3 FP1 with a lap of 2'07.176. Jacob Kornfeil was right on his heels at four hundredths back followed by Isaac Vinales at four tenths of a second behind the leader. In all, KTM began the 2013 season the way it ended last year: Dominance at the top of the timesheet.
Alex Marquez (younger brother of MotoGP's Marc) arrived in fourth and Efren Vazquez who led much of the early session, ended the Thursday session in fifth. All of the top 13 rider finished the day faster than FP1 in 2013 when Jonas Folger clocked a 2'08.951 in the opener.
It has been a long and confusing wait for the 2014 MotoGP season to begin. An awful lot has happened since the MotoGP bikes were rolled into their packing crates after the Valencia test and shipped back to the factories and workshops from whence they came. There have been shock announcements, shock testing results, and shock training crashes. There have been last-minute rule changes, made in an attempt to keep all of the different factions in the paddock from rebelling. The final rules for the premier class were only announced on Monday, and even then, they still contain sufficient ambiguity to confuse.
But this confusion and chaos cannot disguise the fact that 2014 looks set to be the most intriguing championship in years. Gone are the reviled CRT machines – unjustly reviled; though slow, they were still jewels of engineering prowess – and in their place is a new class of machinery, the Open entries. A simpler demarcation has been made, between factories running their own software on the spec Magneti Marelli ECU, and the Open teams using the championship software supplied and controlled by Dorna. The latest rule change adds a twist, allowing underperforming Ducati all the benefits of the Open class – 24 liters of fuel instead of 20, 12 engines per season instead of 5, unlimited testing and a softer tire – until they start winning races. But the 2014 grid looks much more like a single coherent class than the pack of racing motorcycles that lined up last year.
There are many questions which will be answered during the 2014 season, but the first, and most important, is whether Marc Marquez can retain his title. The Repsol Honda rider had a record-breaking rookie season, which ended with him taking the title at the first attempt, and becoming the youngest ever premier class champion. At the first test of 2014 in Sepang, he was a cut above the rest, leaving the other riders gasping for breath. A training crash saw him break his fibula, and he arrives in Qatar just five days after he started putting weight on the leg again, and having missed the last two preseason tests.
Yamaha today took the wraps off their 2014 livery, unveiling their Movistar sponsorship for the first time. They issued the following press release, with photos of the new bike:
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP take the covers off to Kick Start the 2014 season
Losail Circuit (Qatar), 19th March 2014
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP kick started the Qatar MotoGP weekend this afternoon by taking the covers off the 2014 YZR-M1 in front of the world’s key motorcycle media.
Riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were joined on the Losail circuit start grid by Kouichi Tsuji, General Manager of Yamaha Motor Co.'s Motorsports Division, Yamaha Motor Racing’s Managing Director Lin Jarvis and Telefónica Spain’s Director of Media, Luis Velo to reveal the new livery.
The first two months of the year have seen a flurry of activity for the team, highlighted by the recent ground breaking five-year title sponsorship agreement that launches the team Yamaha Movistar MotoGP ahead of the 2014 season.
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.
Moving MotoGP’s goal posts
And here come the players, out of the tunnel and into the stadium; just 15 minutes to go before the opening game of the 2014 World Cup, and the noise and the tension in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium are almost unbearable…
Wait, hang on a moment. There’s something very strange going on at the end of the pitch to my left. There’s a group of FIFA officials and they’re digging up the goalposts! I can’t believe it: they’re moving the goalposts! And there’s more FIFA people doing the same thing at the other end of the pitch, moving those goalposts five metres to the right…
It wouldn’t happen, would it?
Press release previews from most of the MotoGP teams ahead of this weekend's season opening race at Qatar:
Press release previews issued by the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of the season opener at Qatar:
After a week of debate and discussion, the Grand Prix Commission has finally reached an agreement on the Factory 2 class. It took many hours of phone calls, and full agreement was not reached until late on Monday afternoon, but the agreement contains some significant changes to the long-term future of the MotoGP championship. The Factory 2 proposal has been adopted in a slightly modified guise, with any manufacturer entering in the Open class liable to lose fuel and soft tires should they win races. But the bigger news is that the full MotoGP class will switch to use the spec software and ECU from the 2016 season, a year earlier than expected.
The proposals adopted by the GPC now lays out a plan for MotoGP moving forward to 2016. In 2014 and 2015, there will be only two categories - Open and Factory Option - with the set of rules agreed at the end of last year. The new proposal sees manufacturers without a dry weather win in three years to compete as Factory Option entries, but with all of the advantages of the Open class - more fuel, more tires, no engine freeze and unlimited testing. However, should they start to achieve success, they will start to lose first fuel, and then the soft tires. If Ducati - for it is mainly Ducati to which these rules apply, as they are currently the only manufacturer who are eligible at the moment - score 1 win, 2 second place finishes or 3 third places during dry races, then all bikes entered by Ducati will have their fuel cut from 24 to 22 liters for each race. Should Ducati win 3 races in the dry, they will also lose use of the softer rear tires which the Open category entries can use. If Ducati were to lose the extra fuel or tires during 2014, they would also have to race under the same conditions in 2015.
The Red Bull KTM Ajo team issued a press release today, containing an interview with Karel Hanika, the young Czech rookie who has made an astounding debut in the Moto3 class during testing. In the interview, Hanika talks about progress in testing, working inside the Ajo team structure, and being the favorite to win rookie of the year in Moto3. The press release appears below:
"I wasn’t expecting to be so fast in preseason"
Red Bull KTM Ajo rider anxiously awaiting debut in World Championship after strong preseason –in which he was third last week at Jerez.
Karel Hanika is the reigning Red Bull Rookies Cup champion and a Moto3 World Championship debutant with Red Bull KTM Ajo. He has surprised many with his speedy preseason performances, and was third quickest at last week’s Jerez test. The 17 year-old is delighted with his new team, with KTM and with the help of new teammate Jack Miller.
The man with the number 98 will debut this Sunday at Losail, Qatar.
What is your analysis of this preseason?
"I think I can say that after the last test at Jerez, overall it was not bad. We've done a lot of work, many experiments and ridden very well. We have also had a mix of fast laps and race simulation laps. After all that, we are ready to start the season."
It has been ten days since Carmelo Ezpeleta announced to an unsuspecting world that a new category would be added to the MotoGP class to contain Ducati, the 'Factory 2' class. The change was to be ratified on Tuesday, 11th March, in a telephone meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, and Ezpeleta was confident that it would go through without too many problems.
Tuesday came and went, and no agreement had been reached. In fact, it has taken all week and much of this weekend for the situation to approach a resolution. Sources with knowledge of the situation have now confirmed that an agreement will be announced on Monday, allowing the rules to be set in place for the start of the season on Thursday, 20th March.
If you wanted proof that things are changing at Ducati, you need look no further than the launch of their MotoGP team. In years past, it was an outrageously flamboyant affair, a veritable extravaganza hosted by Philip Morris to showcase their two motor sports projects, the Ducati MotoGP team and the Ferrari Formula One squad. Held at the upmarket Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio, the event even had a proper showbiz name: Wrooom. All that was missing was an exclamation mark.
Ducati's 2014 launch was very different. Held not in Italy, but in Munich and Ingolstadt, on premises owned and operated by Ducati's current owners, Audi. The team presentation at the Audi Forum at Munich airport, the unveiling of the livery in the evening, at the Audi Gebrauchtwagen Plus center in Munich, then to Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt the following day, for the presentation of the Germany company's annual report to the press. If the Wrooom event had been flamboyant and over the top, the 2014 launch was serious, focused, yet still stylish. It felt very much like Italy versus Germany, and Germany won.
There was another difference too. Despite the media having been present at both Sepang tests and the Phillip Island tire test, there was still some real meat for journalists to get their teeth into in Munich. Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, MotoGP project leader Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali, head of technical development at Audi Ulrich Hackenberg, even the riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow all had something new to add. It was much, much more interesting than expected.
The fact that the launch was hosted in Munich, at joint event with Audi, rather than Italy was itself a message, one intentionally framed by both Ducati and Audi. Both Claudio Domenicali and Ulrich Hackenberg, the two heaviest hitters at the Ducati launch, underlined the importance of MotoGP to Ducati. After three years out of contention, Domenicali told the press, the company had even questioned how relevant racing was to its business. After taking a long hard look at racing, Ducati had come to the conclusion that it was a key part of its strategy. Racing lies at the heart of Ducati's brand.
The Red Bull KTM team issued a press release containing an interview with Moto3 rider Jack Miller. In the interview, Miller looks back at preseason testing, talks about his hopes and expectations for 2014, and discusses how spending time on an uncompetitive bike has proven to be a strength. He also predicts when his first podium will come, and dicusses his teammate Karel Hanika. The press release appears below:
"I’ve trained hard for many years and I believe I am prepared"
Dominant in preseason testing, Jack Miller has proven to be one of the in-form Moto3 riders in the week before the start of the World Championship.
He debuted in the World Championship in 2011 and, after contesting the full 2012 and 2013 seasons, Jack Miller has signed with Red Bull KTM Ajo for 2014. The Australian has been quick to adapt to the Finnish team and has taken a big step forward ahead of the season –which starts in a week’s time in Qatar. He will be one of the focuses at Losail when the red lights go out.
How do you rate your preseason?
"It has been a very good preseason. I learnt a lot and the whole team have helped me. We’ve had some truly productive tests, so I think we're prepared."
How was your first experience of the Red Bull KTM Ajo team?