Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
The FIM have today released the provisional version of the MotoGP calendar for 2014. As expected, there are few surprises: with the addition of Argentina and Brazil, there will be nineteen races on the calendar, though Brazil is not expected to be ready to host a race next year, the event likely to be postponed until 2015. Laguna Seca is gone from the calendar, leaving just two US races on for 2014. And once again, there are four Spanish rounds on for next season, although Jerez is marked subject to contract.
The season opens with the night race in Qatar on March 23rd, though this decision is likely to face criticism from the riders. Moving the race two weeks earlier increases the risk of the evening dew which settles on the surface hitting earlier, while the bikes are still out on track. That was the case in previous years, when the race was held earlier, with some major crashes as a result. The dew settles quickly and is impossible to see under the lights, but renders the asphalt extremely slippery within a very short period.
The 2014 MotoGP calendar could see the first steps in a long process to transform Grand Prix motorcycle racing from a Eurocentric series to a truly international world championship. Today, Dorna CEO held a press conference in Brazil to announce that MotoGP could make a return to that South American country as early as late 2014. The event would be held at the Autodromo Nelson Piquet de Brasilia, the motorcycle circuit in the capital city of Brazil, and has been scheduled to take place in the second half of the 2014 season. That date is still very far from certain, however, as the track is still subject to safety homologation by the FIM for Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
With the 2013 MotoGP season at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look back and examine the engine usage for the teams and riders. In 2012, with the engine durability regulations in their third full season, the factories appeared to have the situation pretty much under control. The only excitement arose when something unexpected happened, such as Jorge Lorenzo have an engine lunch itself after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at Assen last year.
For 2013, the engine allocation was reduced from 6 to 5 per season. Each rider now has 5 engines to last the entire season, for use in all timed practice sessions during each race weekend. With three seasons already under their belt, no real drama was expected, yet that is not quite how it has turned out. While Honda and Ducati are right on course to last the season, Yamaha find themselves unexpectedly struggling. An unidentified design flaw has seen Yamaha losing engines too rapidly for comfort. Both factory Yamaha men have had an engine withdrawn, while there are question marks over the life left in one engine each allocated to Valentino Rossi and the two Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders.
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.
The Honda/Yamaha pendulum
Amid all the Assen drama it was easy to forget about the forlorn figure of Dani Pedrosa, slumped in his pit, wondering what might have been.
If all things had been equal, victory should have belonged to the Spaniard. Instead he finished a distant fourth, just one place ahead of the remarkable Jorge Lorenzo. So instead of stretching his advantage over his main title rival by 14 points, he gained just two points on him.
Pedrosa may still lean on points but his season has gone awry since his back-to-back wins at Jerez and Le Mans, because for one reason or another he hasn’t been able to get the best out of the Bridgestones. At the three races since Le Mans – Mugello, Catalunya and Assen – he has cited tyre issues for his inability to challenge for victory.
Jorge Lorenzo has won the last two MotoGP rounds in utterly dominating style. Though his win at Mugello was by a greater margin, the victory at Barcelona was one of the most impressive of his career. Afterwards, both Lorenzo's team manager Wilco Zeelenberg and Monster Tech 3 rider Cal Crutchlow said of the Barcelona win that it was probably one of the best races he had ever ridden. Lorenzo had made only one mistake, the Spaniard said afterwards, and it was so small it did not even show up on the data.
As he had done at Mugello, Lorenzo ensured that he won the drag race to the first corner, aggressively outbraking Dani Pedrosa to take the lead. From that point, he held the Hondas at bay until Dani Pedrosa finally broke, the Yamaha man going on to win by nearly two seconds. It was the second race in a row which Lorenzo had led from the start and gone on to win the race. In fact, all three of Lorenzo's wins, at Qatar, Mugello and Barcelona, have come in the same manner: Get into the first corner in the lead, push hard in the early laps, and ride as perfectly and as fast as possible throughout the entire race. There is simply no one else in the world capable of riding a motorcycle for 25 laps at full speed as well as Jorge Lorenzo at the moment.
The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team today issued the following press release, detailing the progress being made by Bradley Smith after the operation to repair his damaged finger, and to fix the scaphoid in his left hand:
Bradley Smith recovering well from successful double surgery
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Bradley Smith returned to the UK yesterday (Thursday) to continue his recovery from successful left hand and wrist sugrery he underwent in Barcelona on Monday.
Just over 24 hours after racing to a fantastic career first top six MotoGP finish at the Circuit de Catalunya, Smith had a 75-minute operation to insert a small screw in the left scaphoid bone he damaged in a heavy crash during practice for the Mugello round in Italy earlier this month.
Smih also suffered a nasty open wound on his left little finger in the same accident, and during Monday’s operation at the USP Institut Universitari Dexeus of Barcelona he also underwent a skin graft to repair the damage.
A small section of skin was removed from his left forearm and the specialist team at the USP Institut Universitari Dexeus of Barcelona are confident the skin graft was successful.
As is the case after every race weekend, Bridgestone today issued their post-race debrief press release, with the Japanese tire company's view of the weekend. With tires a subject of constant discussion during the weekend, there is much to talk about, but the most intriguing nugget of information in this press release comes in Aoki's explanation of why all of the prototype riders went for the soft rear tire, and the role which electronics and set up has come to play in determining tire choice. With this in mind, Bridgestone brought a new rear tire to be tested at Barcelona on Monday, and Aoki explains Bridgestone goal with this new rear tire. The press release appears below:
Catalan MotoGP™ debrief with Shinji Aoki
Thursday 20 June 2013
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Medium & Hard. Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Hard (Main), Soft (Alternative)
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo rode peerlessly under pressure to win last Sunday’s Catalan Grand Prix ahead of the Repsol Honda duo of Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez.
Tyres were a major talking point over the race weekend, with hot conditions setting track temperatures soaring with a peak of 57°C during Sunday’s race that tested the tyres to the limit. Despite the scorching conditions, the overall race pace was improved on last year and in qualifying, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa recorded a lap-time of 1’40.893 seconds, smashing the old pole position record set by Casey Stoner with qualifying tyres in 2008.
Press releases from some of the MotoGP teams after the test at Barcelona:
Pity poor Jorge Lorenzo. Once again he comes to a test and tops the timesheets, and everyone is talking about someone else. This time, though, he will probably not mind, as he was not really out for glory at the test, just to work on settings before heading to the next test at Aragon on Wednesday. If it isn't rained off that is.
Lorenzo chose to skip the morning session, preferring to rest after an impressive win on Sunday, but once underway he was quickly up to speed hitting the top three after just a couple of laps, and ending the day on top. The Factory Yamaha man had been working on set up, but had also tested a new fuel tank. The new tank does not change the weight balance from the current version used by the factory riders, but it does have a slightly different shape to fit under the seat more comfortably and allow Lorenzo to position himself better on the bike.
Jorge Lorenzo has topped the timesheets at the end of the Barcelona MotoGP test, but the talking point of the test was Suzuki. On its first public run out, Randy de Puniet clocked a time of 1'42.676, just over three quarters of a second off the time set by Lorenzo, an impressive debut.
Nicky Hayden set the second fastest time, close behind Lorenzo and ahead of Stefan Bradl. Both Hayden and Dovizioso ran back-to-back tests with the existing Ducati GP13 and the lab bike, but neither man was convinced that the lab bike was a step forward. Cal Crutchlow took 5th spot, having spent the day working on the start of the race, as had his teammate Bradley Smith. Both men had made several exits with a completely full tank, to work on improving the first eight or so laps of the race, the point at which the Yamaha riders are struggling.
The Montmelo circuit just outside of Barcelona is a hive of activity, as all but the Repsol and Gresini Honda teams take to the track. As of 2pm, Stefan Bradl was the fastest man on track, just a fraction quicker than Nicky Hayden and late arrival Jorge Lorenzo, while Andrea Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi are all within three tenths of Bradl's time.
Much of the interest was around the Suzuki garage, where Randy de Puniet made his debut on the bike, after it had been given a shakedown by Nobu Aoki. So far, and some 15 laps in, De Puniet has lapped at 1:44.089, which is some 1.8 seconds off the time of Bradl. In comparison, De Puniet did a 1'43.186 during qualifying on the Aprilia ART machine he has been riding so far this year.
While Jorge Lorenzo was a late arrival, choosing to get some rest in the morning after a hard race yesterday, Bradley Smith left the track early. The Tech 3 man is scheduled to have surgery tonight to repair his little finger, and fix the scaphoid in his left wrist, damage from his crash at Mugello.
Times as of 2pm
Official confirmation of Suzuki's return to Grand Prix racing has come at last. This morning, Suzuki issued a press release announcing that they will be back in MotoGP. The bad news is that they will not return until 2015, deciding instead to spend a year developing the bike before mounting a serious challenge in the series in 2015.
As already reported, Davide Brivio is confirmed as the manager of Suzuki's team, while Randy De Puniet has been officially announced as the development rider for the bike. Nobuatsu Aoki will continue to do a lot of the donkey work in testing, in much the same role as Franco Battaini at Ducati. Both are capable riders willing to grind out the miles and test that everything is working correctly, while De Puniet, like Michele Pirro at Ducati, will try to get the bike up to race speed, to see where its weaknesses lie.
The decision to wait until 2015 makes decisions for riders a little more complex. Riders in the running for the Suzuki seat were informed last week of Suzuki's decision, giving them time to look for alternatives.
Jorge Lorenzo ran a perfect race at Barcelona. Well, not quite perfect, he told veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes that he made just a single mistake. 'Luckily nobody saw it, and you cannot see it on the data,' Lorenzo said. After a difficult qualifying session, Lorenzo put the hammer down from the start, attacking Dani Pedrosa aggressively into Turn 1 once again, just like in Mugello, and then pushing hard all race long, despite a front tire that kept threatening to let go.
So how did he do it? How did he pull off a win when most people were convinced that Pedrosa had the win in the bag? Two factors: his own mental strength, and a radical and inspired set up change during warm up, in preparation for a hot race with no grip. Wilco Zeelenberg, Lorenzo's team manager, explained to me exactly what they had done. "We created a lot less pressure on the front of the bike," the Dutchman explained. "That's not what you would normally do, but because you know you won't be able to do 1'42s all race, you know you don't need the best set up."
The extreme temperatures had caused everyone problems, and Lorenzo's crew, led by Ramon Forcada, had elected to give Lorenzo more feeling, sacrificing grip. "If you look at the lap times, they bring tears to your eyes. I mean, if Dani [Pedrosa] can qualifying in 1'40.8, and he ends up lapping at 1'43 pace, then there's something wrong. It means everybody is riding on eggshells." Lorenzo himself was uncertain of the revised set up. Lorenzo had told Zeelenberg that he wasn't sure that he was really any quicker, but he could get into the corner with a lot more confidence. "That didn't give him any advantage in terms of lap time, but it meant he knew he could go exactly this far, and no further," Zeelenberg explained.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after Sunday's GP de Catalunya at Barcelona:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's GP de Catalunya at Barcelona: