October 25th, 2013
After just one year of a two-year deal, Alstare and Ducati have agreed to terminated the contract the Belgian team has to run Ducati's factory World Superbike effort. Today, the two parties made it known that they would not be continuing their collaboration, citing financial problems for Alstare and the loss of a major sponsor.
The split had long been expected. Alstare team boss Francis Batta had made no secret of his unhappiness with both the collaboration with Ducati, and the performance of the Ducati 1199 Panigale. Alstare had former WSBK champion Carlos Checa and highly rated Italian Ayrton Badovini in their ranks, yet after a solitary pole at Phillip Island, results have been very poor. Ducati ended the season without a win in World Superbikes for the first time in the history of the series. Batta had asked Ducati many times throughout the year to be allowed to do more development work, but Ducati had rejected his requests. Motorcycle technology had advanced to such a point that it had become almost impossible for a private team to have the resources to be successful, Ducati had told Alstare, and it was now the task of the manufacturer to do the development of a racing motorcycle.
After losing the first day of practice at Motegi to the weather, Race Direction have announced contingency plans for a schedule to allow practice, qualifying and the races to be run at the Japanese circuit however the weather turns out. With rain set to continue on Saturday morning, but clear up on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, schedules have been drawn up to take account of all the possible combinations of weather.
The problem is not the rain, it is the fog and low-hanging cloud, Race Director Mike Webb explained in a press conference at Motegi. Because of the location of the Twin Ring circuit, set in a bowl up in the hills in the Tochigi district in Japan, the combination of heavy clould and relatively weak winds saw the surrounding hills cloaked in cloud. That cloud and the reduced visibility it caused meant that the medical helicopter, which is required to transport injured riders to the nearest hospital, was not allowed to fly, Japanese aviation law preventing helicopters flying in such circumstances. The helicopter had not yet arrived at the circuit, being stationed a few minutes flight time away. Without the medical helicopter, practice could not be run safely, as the hospital designated by the chief doctor at the circuit is an hour away by road. Should a rider sustain a severe or life-threatening injury, they could not be transported to the hospital quickly enough to ensure proper care, Webb explained.
All Friday practice sessions for the Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi have been cancelled due to safety concerns caused by adverse weather conditions. Heavy fog along with constant rain and low cloud cover have hovered over the circuit since the early morning and have failed to clear throughout the afternoon. The thick fog meant that the circuit medical helicopter had been grounded and unable to make it's flight to the circuit. Given the remote location of the twin ring complex, the presence of a medical helicopter is pivotal. An official press conference will be held at 4.45pm local time to outline the course of action for the remainder of the weekend, which could include extended practice sessions for tomorrow, assuming there is no further lost time to the inclement weather.
All FP1 sessions have been cancelled for the Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi due to adverse weather conditions. Moto3 FP1 was initially delayed due to heavy fog, cloud and mist hovering over the circuit. The reasons given were for those of safety as the circuit medical helicopter would be unable to take off or land in the occurrence of an emergency. The remote Motegi track is located an hour by road from the nearest hospital, so access for the medical helicopter is absolutely vital.
A revised schedule for the remaining FP2 sessions is due to be announced as the paddock keep their fingers crossed for the fog to dissipate.
After the farcical yet compelling Australian Grand Prix, the Grand Prix paddock heads north to Japan for the last of the three overseas races. The contrast could not be greater: from unusually warm weather at the magnificent, sweeping Phillip Island circuit, it is cold and very wet conditions which greet the riders at Motegi, a circuit dominated by stop-and-go corners with little rhythm to it. While almost every rider on the grid adores Phillip Island, you would be hard pressed to find a rider not holding a Japanese passport with any affection for Motegi. The challenges the riders face are mainly of physical endurance, with very few spots testing their mettle and skill.
Adding the test of endurance will be the weather this weekend. Though Typhoon Francisco has now weakened to a tropical storm and is forecast to pass much further south than was feared, large amounts of rain are still expected at Motegi, especially on Friday evening and Saturday morning. While all of practice looks set to be wet, at least the riders will get some practice, as early forecasts had suggested that several, if not all, sessions could be a complete washout. For now, it just looks like the riders will be cold and rather wet.
That could add to some real excitement at the Japanese circuit. The championship is still far from decided in all three classes, after the surprises at Phillip Island stirred up the title fight. Alex Rins' victory in Australia saw him close the gap to Moto3 championship leader Luis Salom to just 5 points with two races to go; Scott Redding's qualifying crash in which he fractured his wrist allowed Pol Espargaro to turn a 9 point deficit in the Moto2 title chase into a 16 point lead; and the bizarre mistake by Marc Marquez' crew which led to him being disqualified meant that his lead over Jorge Lorenzo was slashed from 43 points to just 18. Two of the three titles could be decided at Motegi on Sunday, but there is a strong possibility that all three championships could be taken down to the final race at Valencia, the first time that has happened in the history of the series.
Scott Redding will attempt to ride this weekend at Motegi, less than a week after fracturing his wrist in a crash during qualifying at Phillip Island. The Marc VDS Racing rider underwent a medical examination at the Motegi Twin Ring circuit, and was passed fit to attempt to ride during free practice on Friday, after which he will have to undergo another examination to see how his fractured radius is holding up.
Redding's crash during qualifying in Australia saw him fracture the tip of the radius, one of the two bones in the forearm, just where it attaches to the thumb side of the wrist. He had surgery to pin the fracture on Saturday night, and since then he has been having physiotherapy to try to prepare for Sunday's race. With Espargaro winning at Phillip Island, Redding lost his lead in the Moto2 championship, but the difference is still just 16 points. Redding will hope to score enough points at Motegi to take the championship fight to Valencia, in just over two weeks time.
The weather at Motegi may help. With wet sessions likely throughout practice and qualifying, the stresses on his wrist at the notoriously hard-braking circuit should at least be less than normal, giving his wrist a little longer to recover. With Sunday looking set to be dry, Redding will be grateful of any help he can get.
The 2013 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island - likely to be known henceforth as 'The Debacle Down Under' - taught us many things. It taught us that tire companies need to find ways to test at newly surfaced tracks (especially when a newly retired world champion and now Honda test rider lives in the same country), that pit stops in dry conditions are potentially dangerous when each stint is less than 10 laps, and that hurriedly changing rules and race lengths are far from ideal when trying to organize a MotoGP race. Those were the lessons that were immediately obvious to anyone watching.
There were more subtle lessons from Phillip Island as well. Marc Marquez' disqualification was not just a failure of either strategy or his ability to read a pit board, it was also a sign of growing tensions inside the Repsol Honda box. The reactions of the various members of Marquez' crew after he failed to enter the pits to swap bikes at the end of lap 10 (shown in an excellent free video on the MotoGP.com website) suggests a deep-seated failure of communication among the entire crew. Most of his crew appeared to be surprised and shocked when Marquez didn't come in to swap bikes, but Marquez' inner circle, Emilio Alzamora and Santi Hernandez, appear unperturbed as he races by on the lap that would lead to his disqualification. Cristian Gabarrini, formerly Casey Stoner's crew chief and now HRC engineer assisting Marquez' team, is immediately certain of the consequences, the cutting motion across the throat showing he knows it's over.
After the race, Marc Marquez told reporters that it had been deliberate strategy to ride for the extra lap. The strategy had been decided by a small group. 'We made the plan together, with three or four guys, with Santi [Hernandez] and with Emilio [Alzamora],' Marquez said, but the plan had backfired. 'The biggest problem was that we thought that it was possible to make that lap,' Marquez said, expressing his surprise at being black flagged. He had thought the penalty was for speeding in the pit lane or crossing the white line too early.
Talking to the Spanish media, Marquez was a little more explicit. 'We knew we had to enter on lap 9 or lap 10, and we thought we could enter the pits on lap 10. This was always the plan, to enter on the last lap possible, and we thought this was the last lap possible.' It was not, and that lap would lead to his disqualification.
After the eventful Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, the MotoGP paddock heads to Japan, hoping for a slightly quieter weekend. It looks like they may well get their wish, thanks to the weather predicted for the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi. Typhoon Francisco, an intense tropical depression, is set to hit the Islands of Japan this weekend, blowing through on Friday night and departing by Saturday afternoon. With Francisco forecast to dump large quantities of rain in the region around Motegi, free practice could well be a washout, with the rain only letting up on Saturday afternoon.
Fortunately for MotoGP, Typhoon Francisco is rapidly losing strength. It had quickly grown to be a category 3 typhoon, increasing last Sunday to category 5 , the most powerful category of storm. It is now diminishing in intensity as it approaches the southern coast of Japan, and has reduced to category 1. Francisco is expected to produce strongs winds and a lot of rainfall, but it will not be as bad as initially feared.
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.
A grand farce at Phillip Island
Embarrassing. No other word for it, really. Well, apart from incompetence on the grandest scale. Pretty much everyone involved in the upper echelons of MotoGP was responsible for Sunday’s travesty of a race: Bridgestone, Dorna, the FIM, the Grand Prix Permanent Bureau, the Grand Prix Commission, IRTA, Race Direction, safety officer Franco Uncini and safety advisor Loris Capirossi. They all failed in their duty of care to the riders, putting them in all kinds of danger because they hadn’t done their jobs properly.
We all make mistakes, but this was several dozen well-paid, experienced professionals failing to spot a disaster in the making.
Bridgestone Press Release: Shinji Aoki On Why Bridgestone's Tires Did Not Last The Race At Phillip Island
After every race weekend, Bridgestone issues a press release containing a summary of how they think their weekend went. Normally, they are fairly bland affairs, only of interest to those interested in the minutiae of tire performance and set up. How different is the press release issued after the Australian Grand Prix. After the debacle of tires not being able to complete an entire race, and compulsory pit stops introduced, Bridgestone's press release was highly anticipated.
The press release itself is rather disappointing. While the technical details are fascinating on why the tires failed to hold up at Phillip Island, the question of why Bridgestone failed to test at the circuit is merely skimmed over in passing references. The full press release appears below:
Australian MotoGP™ debrief with Shinji Aoki
Tuesday 22 October 2013
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Extra-soft & Soft. Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main) & Hard (Alternative)
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo won an intriguing Australian Grand Prix ahead of Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and his factory Yamaha stablemate Valentino Rossi.
The new Phillip Island track surface proved to be unexpectedly harsh on tyres, particularly at the rear, resulting in a decision by race direction – following discussions with Bridgestone – to reduce the race distance to nineteen laps and mandate a pit stop where riders were required to change bikes equipped with a fresh set of tyres.
2013’s World Superbike season is done and dusted. All the appeals are settled and the points are final. The racing at Jerez was nearly touched by the weather, but luckily for the series, it stayed dry for the world championship races.
2013 Phillip Island MotoGP Sunday Round Up: The Omnishambles - Adding Excitement And Confusion To MotoGP
There is only one word which everyone would agree accurately describes the 2013 Tissot Australian Grand Prix, and that word is 'eventful'. There are an awful lot of other words being used to describe it, some fit for publication, some less so, but nobody would argue with the fact that the entire weekend at Phillip Island was packed with action, controversy, surprises, and even the odd spot of excitement. The tire issues suffered by both Dunlop and Bridgestone caused the Moto2 and MotoGP races to be shortened, and the MotoGP riders forced to make a compulsory pit stop. The pit stops certainly added an element of suspense, and even surprise, but they split opinion among fans, riders and paddock followers straight down the middle: half viewed the whole thing as a farce, the other half thought it made for a thrilling spectacle. The arguments between the two sides are likely to go on for a long time.
If splitting the race in two added plenty of suspense, it also added a great deal of confusion. That confusion was not aided by the fact that Bridgestone changed their advice to Race Direction after cutting open the tires used during the warm up on Sunday morning and finding further evidence of blistering. With ambient temperatures some 10°C warmer than Bridgestone had been expecting when they selected the tires for Phillip Island, the rear tire was simply not coping with the stress of the newly resurfaced circuit. The new surface was generating more grip, which was producing more heat, and having hotter ambient temperatures pushed the tires well over the edge. The race was shortened again, from 26 laps to 19, with riders only allowed to do 10 laps on each tire.
And here's where a momentous mistake was made. More than one, in fact. It being so late in the day - the decision was only made during the Moto3 race, a couple of hours before the MotoGP race was due to start - there was little time to communicate the decision properly, and so an official communique was drawn up and issued to the teams. Instructions were put on paper, and then handed out by IRTA officials to everyone in MotoGP. This was the first mistake of the day, and triggered a chain of events that would end up shaking up the championship. If a rider meeting had been called, where all of the riders and their key team members had been briefed, the exact rules and their consequences could have been laid out. This, of course, is difficult, as getting all of the riders to be in one place is like herding cats, and Dorna is not in the habit of issuing the riders with stiff fines if they don't turn up on time for official events as is usual in other motorsports series. As it was, a piece of paper was handed out - one among many in a garage at any time, with time schedules, tire selection sheets, gearing charts, timing charts, official notices and a million other sheets of A4 floating around - on which was written the rules, and the penalty for disobeying the rules.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after Sunday's bizarre and action-packed race at Phillip Island: