Two races in, and patterns are already starting to emerge in Grand Prix's junior classes. In Moto2, preseason favorite Tito Rabat is living up to expectations as his challenges fall by the wayside. In Moto3, Jack Miller has a far firmer stranglehold on the class than expected, while the new Honda NSF250RW is proving that when HRC put their minds to building a factory race bike, the competition had better watch out.
Austin, Texas, proved to be a case in point. A bizarre start to the Moto2 race saw a massive pile up at the treacherous first corner, the run up the hill combining with the massive nerves of a Moto2 start – arguably motorcycle racing's most rabid class – to produce chaos. Josh Herrin, feeling the strain of coming in as reigning AMA Superbike champion to find himself running anonymously in mid-pack in Moto2, ran in to Turn 1 too hot, try to jam his Caterham Suter into a spot which wasn't there, and ended up taking down half the field. Herrin was understandably nervous in front of his home crowd, and feeling the pressure of being the ambassador for American racers, but he did himself and any AMA hopefuls looking to Moto2 a disservice. Herrin fractured a collarbone whle training, and so will have to wait until Jerez to start to make amends.
Championship leader Tito Rabat also got a mediocre start from pole, then dropped back a long way in the first couple of laps, before starting to fight his way forward again. Xavier Simeon looked like making it a very big day for Belgium for most of the race, before massively outbraking himself on the way into Turn 1 as he came under press from Dominique Aegerter and Maverick Viñales. Aegerter led for a while, but he could offer no resistance to Viñales. The reigning Moto3 champion quickly opened a gap and crossed the line with a comfortable margin to spare.
Suzuki wrapped up their test at Austin on Wednesday, with Randy De Puniet concluding with a best lap of 2'05.85. Below is the press release they issued after the test:
SUZUKI MOTOGP CONCLUDES AUSTIN TEST
Team Suzuki Press Office – April 17.
The Suzuki MotoGP Test Team has concluded its Circuit of the Americas test at Austin in Texas after finding new direction and improvements to take to its next test in Argentina at the end of the month.
Test riders Randy De Puniet and Nobuatsu Aoki were again joined on-track by former World Champion Kevin Schwantz and shared the test with the Yoshimura Suzuki AMA Superbike team as track temperatures climbed to 39 degrees; slightly higher than the previous day, but not as high as the previous weekend’s MotoGP second round.
De Puniet completed a total of 62 laps of the 5,315m circuit with a best lap-time of 2’05.85; just-over half-a-second quicker than his previous day’s best time.
Casey Stoner will not be returning to MotoGP any time soon. In an interview with the Italian magazine Vogue, Stoner said that he wanted to spend more time with his family and experience life outside the paddock.
There has been a constant stream of rumors that Stoner could return to MotoGP almost since the day the Australian hung up his helmet. They have grown in intensity at several points in time, most notably when Honda announced that Stoner would be working for HRC as a test rider in 2013. HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto has made no secret that Honda would welcome the prodigal Australian back with open arms, and credible sources in Spain have reported that much work has been done to make a comeback possible, and to try to persuade Stoner to make a return.
News that Stoner was to attend the Austin round of MotoGP reignited a firestorm of further speculation that he could stage a comeback at some point in the future. That speculation was tempered by the fact that Stoner spent most of the weekend in Seattle, where he watched his friend Ryan Villopoto try to wrap up the 2014 Supercross title. Stoner made it to Austin on Sunday, where he paid a very low-key visit to MotoGP*, catching up with his former teammates.
Suzuki's MotoGP test team took advantage of the presence of the MotoGP paddock at Austin to plan a test directly after the Grand Prix of the Americas. Under the watchful eye of team manager Davide Brivio, the team planned to have test rider Randy De Puniet put in three days of testing at a circuit the team had not yet tested the bike at, in a bid to gather more data ahead of their return to the series in 2015.
Unfortunately for Suzuki, very heavy hail and thunderstorms made testing extremely difficult on Monday, leaving the track very dirty and much slower than it had been for Sunday's race. But testing resumed in earnest on Tuesday, with Randy De Puniet running through testing electronics and another back-to-back test of the two chassis options Suzuki has been working on. De Puniet racked up a total of 56 laps on Tuesday, eventually putting in a lap of 2'06.41. That is roughly on pace with the Open class Honda RCV1000R machines, though De Puniet faced much worse track conditions than the Open class machines due to the aftermath of the weather.
Bridgestone Press Release - Masao Azuma Admits Bridgestone Puzzled By Extreme Front Tire Wear At Austin
As always after a MotoGP race, Bridgestone issued a press release containing their view of the race weekend. In this press release, Bridgestone's chief engineer Masao Azuma discusses the Japanese tire maker's experience of the Austin round of MotoGP. Azuma talks about the choice of the hard rear tire by Marc Marquez, and Bridgestone's hopes that the hard rear will see more use this season. But he also admits that Bridgestone has no ready explanation for the degradation of the front tire experienced by some riders, including Valentino Rossi. The Bridgestone press release appears below:
Americas MotoGP™ debrief with Masao Azuma
Wednesday 16 April 2014
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft & Medium; Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
The Americas Grand Prix at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas was won by Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez for the second successive year. In second place was Dani Pedrosa on the other Repsol Honda RC213V while Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso surged through the field in the second half of the race to take third place for his maiden podium with the Italian manufacturer.
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.
Marc Márquez: “He’s playing”
If you are a MotoGP rider, may I suggest you don’t read the following, but if you insist on putting yourself through the pain, might I suggest cracking open a beer and then afterwards you can arrange an appointment with your doctor who may be able to subscribe a course of anti-depressants; say 60mg of Prozac or 20mg of Citalopram, just to keep your pecker up, that’s all.
If you are a MotoGP rider who doesn’t go by the name of Marc Márquez, the deeply depressing reality is that whatever you are doing out there is no longer enough. It’s like someone has changed the rules of the game and no one bothered to tell you and now it’s too late to catch up.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams, the circuit and Bridgestone after Sunday's race at Austin:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's race in Austin:
Normally it takes bad weather to shake things up in a MotoGP race. For most of the day, it looked like the rain was ready to start at any time, but in the end it stayed pretty much completely dry, bar a quick and meaningless shower just before the Moto2 race started. Regardless of what the weather decided to do, we still ended up with a bizarre MotoGP race anyway. The weirdness started even before the race had started, and continued pretty much all the way to the very last corner.
Jorge Lorenzo came to Texas knowing he faced an uphill challenge. Last year at the Circuit of the Americas, Marc Marquez had run away with the race, with only Dani Pedrosa able to follow. Lorenzo had put up a valiant struggle, but had been unable to prevent a Repsol Honda whitewash. In 2014, Lorenzo had come facing an even tougher task, if that were possible. After crashing out at the first race, Lorenzo knew he had to score as many points as he could without taking too many risks. He would have to find a very fine balance between pushing hard to try to catch – and who knows, maybe even beat – the Repsol Hondas, and ensuring he didn't risk ending up with a second zero to go with the crash at Qatar.