In a few hours time, we will know who will be the 2014 World Superbike champion. Tom Sykes leads Sylvain Guintoli by 12 points going into the final two races at Qatar. With 50 points up for grabs, the title race is still completely open, and in a series as close as World Superbikes has been this year, anything could happen.
What both Sykes and Guintoli need are help from their teammates. Guintoli most of all: if the Frenchman is to be champion, he will need someone, such as his Aprilia teammate Marco Melandri, to get in between him and the Kawasaki of Sykes. Sykes, on the other hand, can wrap up the title by winning both races, or at least finishing ahead of Guintoli. If he can't finish ahead of the Frenchman, then he will hope that his teammate Loris Baz can assist.
As loyal teammates, surely Melandri and Baz will be happy to help? That was only partially the case at the last round in Magny-Cours. In race one, Melandri theatrically waved Guintoli past and into the lead, making it patently obvious that victory was Melandri's to dispense as he saw fit, and he was prepared to allow his teammate to win this time. Further back, Baz did the same same for Sykes, though without making quite as much of a song and dance about it as Melandri did.
Race two was a different affair. Once again, Melandri led, and could grant victory to Guintoli if he wanted to. He chose not to, taking the win – despite his pit board making the feelings of his team very clear indeed, for the second race in a row – and taking 5 precious points from Guintoli. If Melandri had obeyed team orders and moved over, then Guintoli would have trailed Sykes by 7 points instead of 12. That would put Guintoli's destiny in his own hands: win both races, and it would not matter what Sykes did. Now, Guintoli needs help, he needs someone between him and the Englishman. Will his teammate come to his rescue this time? Will the Aprilia WSBK team issue team orders again, commanding Melandri to serve the cause of Guintoli's championship challenge?
On the last Free Practice session of the day, moved forward from Saturday due to the nighttime schedule, Davide Giugliano recorded the first 1'57 lap of the weekend, ahead of Jonathan Rea and Sylvain Guintoli. Loris Baz, who narrowly avoided a high-speed crash with Gabor Rizmayer in the previous session, was fourth quickest.
While Michael van der Mark again takes the fastest slot, French Supersport champion Lucas Mahias, on his second wildcard ride of the year, goes second quickest under the lights of Losail.
Eugene Laverty increased the pace in the second of three sessions today, with Chaz Davies close behind. Sylvain Guintoli continues to be the quicker of the title challengers.
Newly crowned world champion Michael van der Mark was quickest by almost a second, ahead of Florian Marino and Lorenzo Zanetti with Jules Cluzel in fourth place.
Opening the last World Superbike weekend of the year, Jonathan Rea was the quicker of the three riders with laps under two minutes. Loris Baz and Alex Lowes joined him with championship contenders Sylvain Guintoli fourth quickest and Tom Sykes ninth quickest.
Yonny Hernandez is to remain with the Pramac Ducati squad for the 2015 season, and will race a Factory Option Desmosedici GP14.2 alongside Danilo Petrucci. Though the news had long been known, Ducati today issued a press release officially announcing Hernandez as the second rider at Pramac.
The deal will see Hernandez race with Pramac in 2015, with an option to extend the contract to 2016, though the statement does not make it clear who can exercise the option. Hernandez and Petrucci will race the GP14.2, the bike currently being contested by Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, running Ducati's factory software and using the Ducati performance concessions. This means they will retain the softer tire, 24 liters of fuel, and extra engines and testing for the 2015 season.
The press release from Ducati appears below:
Yonny Hernandez contracts with Ducati to continue with the Pramac Racing Team in 2015 MotoGP World Championship
Ducati Corse is pleased to announce that it has signed an agreement with Yonny Hernandez that will tie the Colombian rider to Ducati for 2015, with an option for 2016.
Press releases previewing this weekend's season finale at Qatar from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams and series organizer:
Casey Stoner has made a temporary return to MotoGP, completing two days of testing for Honda at Motegi. Over the two days of testing, Stoner focused on the 2015 version of Honda's RC213V, the Australian comparing the settings used by Repsol Honda's current riders, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, to see how they work with the new bike. Stoner also worked on preparing the 2015 further ahead of its debut at the Valencia test after the final race of the season. Finally, he also spent some time on the development versions of Michelin's MotoGP tires, as the French manufacturer prepares to take over as spec tire supplier from 2016 onwards. As is their custom with all testing, Honda did not release any lap times.
Stoner volunteered to do the test as compensation for the tests he was scheduled to do in 2013. Those tests were largely rained off due to poor weather in Japan, and Stoner felt he still owed HRC some testing. With better weather conditions at Motegi for this test, the Australian was able to make good on his debt to Honda. According to MCN's Matt Birt, HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto is keen to retain Stoner as a test rider, but agreement is yet to be reached.
After Tito Rabat sealed the 2014 Moto2 championship, Dorna issued the following press release, charting Rabat's path to his title winning season:
Tireless Rabat’s hard work takes him to the top
At the age of 25 Tito Rabat has seen his years of hard work and steady improvement pay off as he took a big step forward in 2014 to become a World Champion.
On Sunday the rider from Barcelona clinched his first World title, following up on the success story of his former teammate last year in the Moto2™ class Pol Espargaro. Rabat’s journey to the World Championship glory in the intermediate class has been one of diligent self-improvement since his first appearance in Grand Prix racing in 2005.
Rabat made his debut in Valencia at the end of that 2005 season having been runner up in the Spanish 125cc championship that year. The following season he made further guest appearances at Jerez and Barcelona-Catalunya before getting handed an opportunity in the second half of the 2006 campaign to ride permanently on Honda machinery. He attended 10 Grands Prix that year and registered his first points.
As usual after every MotoGP round, Bridgestone issued a press release debrief with one of their top engineers. This time, it is the turn of Masao Azuma to discuss how Bridgestone's tires handled the intense heat of Sepang, and how their new front tire with more edge grip performed:
Malaysian MotoGP™ debrief with Masao Azuma
Wednesday, October 29 2014
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Medium & Hard. Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Hard (Main) & Soft (Alternative)
In sweltering conditions at Malaysia’s Sepang Circuit last Sunday, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez won his twelfth race of the 2014 season ahead of the determined Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo who finished in second and third place respectively.
Extremely hot and humid temperatures over the race weekend created trying conditions for the riders, with Sunday’s race experiencing an ambient temperature of 35°C, while the track temperature reached 55°C. With the sun blazing overhead, Marquez was on a hot streak on track setting a new Sepang Circuit Best Lap record (1'59.791) in qualifying and a new Circuit Record Lap (2'01.150) during the race.
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.
Miller and Márquez, mountains and molehills
Twenty-three years ago Luca Cadalora and Helmut Bradl were engaged in a bitter duel for the 250 world title, just as Álex Márquez and Jack Miller are in Moto3 today. At Misano the pair exited the final corner side by side and dashed towards the chequered flag, the Italian blatantly elbowing the German onto the dirt. Cadalora won the race by nine thousandths of a second and Bradl wasn’t a happy man.
The following weekend it was the West German GP. The Hockenheim grandstands – a vast concrete amphitheatre overlooking the final few corners – were packed with locals and the atmosphere wasn’t pretty. Each time Cadalora rode into the stadium section the crowd erupted into a chorus of boos. Before the weekend he had already received death threats and during practice he made the mistake of crashing right in front of the grandstands. As marshals dragged the groggy rider out of harm’s way, the crowd added insult to injury, unleashing a torrent of abuse. Cadalora was hurt and plenty of fans seemed delighted.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races at Sepang: