Marc Marquez entered MotoGP surrounded by hype and with high expectations. After a wet test at Valencia, where he showed he was fast, but not quite how fast, the Spaniard went to Sepang, where he posted very good times in a private test. At the full Sepang MotoGP tests, Marquez was genuinely impressive, never finishing outside the top 4.
At Austin, Marquez stunned observers. The young Spaniard, still only a rookie in the MotoGP class, with only a few days on a MotoGP bike under his belt, dominated at the Austin test, topping the timesheets on all three days of the private test. It was not as if he didn't have any competition at the circuit: both the factory Yamaha and Honda teams were at the Austin test, and Marquez beat Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi to set the fastest time.
So it was something of a surprise when Marquez failed to duplicate his impressive pace in Malaysia and Texas when MotoGP rolled up at Jerez for the final test of the season. Though Marquez was 3rd fastest in the wet, once conditions improved - though they were never perfect - the Repsol Honda rookie got left behind a little, finishing the second day in 7th spot, nearly 1.2 seconds behind fastest man Valentino Rossi, and 5th spot on day three, 0.6 behind Cal Crutchlow. Marquez left the three day test as 6th overall, six tenths behind the fastest man of the test Cal Crutchlow, and over a tenth behind Stefan Bradl, his main rival during the 2011 Moto2 season.
With just over a week to go to the start of the 2013 MotoGP season, it's time to take another trip down memory lane and get ourselves excited about this season's racing. Today, shots from MotoMatters.com star shooter Scott Jones taken at Jerez. Remember also to check out the special offers Scott has on signed photos, including riders such as Casey Stoner, Cal Crutchlow and Nicky Hayden. Not long to go now...
Three days of testing at Jerez is over, and the real star of the show is obvious for all to see: The Weather. Of the 18 hours of track time that the MotoGP riders had at their disposal, only about 4 were in consistent conditions, and that was in the pouring rain on Saturday. An afternoon of dry track time - well, dryish, with groundwater seeping through the track from the hills at Jerez which have been lashed by unusually heavy rain all winter long - on Sunday and a bright start to Monday morning left the riders hopeful, but it was not to be.
It took 15 minutes for the first rain to arrive. The track opened at 10am. At 10:15am, the rain started to fall, leaving most of the teams twiddling their thumbs in the garages and hoping for some dry track time. Dani Pedrosa gave up on the day altogether; he had only really been testing odds and ends, new rear shock settings and one or two other bits and pieces anyway, and suffering with neck pain from a strain he suffered at Austin, he decided to call it quits and go home. He missed a few dry hours at the end of the day, but given the stiffness with which he was turning his head to answer the questions of journalists on Sunday evening, choosing to rest his neck was probably a wise move.
While Pedrosa was on his way home, Jorge Lorenzo was doing yet another of his punishing race simulations, pounding out 22 laps of the Jerez track at the kind of pace that secured 2nd place for him at last year's race over 27 laps, a very strong performance given the conditions on the track. Lorenzo finished in a (for him) lowly 4th spot, but his best time was set on the third lap of his race simulation. This is the approach that helped bring him the title in 2012, and the comparison with Pedrosa's physical woes is a valid one. Pedrosa strained a neck muscle whilst riding; Lorenzo has been training both on and off the track to ensure he does not suffer such injuries. Lorenzo is ready to race, and by that, I mean the full race distance.
Press releases after the final day of testing at the IRTA MotoGP test at Jerez:
Combined times from all three days of testing at Jerez:
Cal Crutchlow leaves Jerez as the fastest man at the three-day test, having set the quickest time of the event on the final day. Even more impressive for Crutchlow is that he set that fastest time in the middle of his long run, while he was working on race set up.
Valentino Rossi ended the day as 2nd fastest, confirmation of his best time from yesterday, with both him and teammate Jorge Lorenzo testing a new chassis for the Yamaha M1. Stefan Bradl took 3rd spot and finished first of the Hondas, while Jorge Lorenzo ended the day in 4th, choosing to run a 22-lap race simulation (full race distance is 27 laps at Jerez) instead of chasing a fast time. He did set his fastest time during that race simulation, posting a string of mid 1:40s.
Marc Marquez took 5th place, six tenths off the pace of Crutchlow, and the only Repsol Honda rider on the grid, Dani Pedrosa having decided to leave the test as he did not feel he had anything more to test. Pedrosa has been suffering with muscle cramps in his neck, a problem which he suffered at Austin, and returned once he was on the bike at Jerez. That, too, may have played a part in his decision to leave the test.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the second day of testing at Jerez:
Valentino Rossi topped the timesheets on the second day of the MotoGP test at Jerez, the first time he has topped a session in the dry since 2010. The Factory Yamaha rider just edged his teammate Jorge Lorenzo by a few thousandths of a second, and the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow by a few fractions more. Dani Pedrosa was the first non-Yamaha man, the Repsol Honda rider just over a tenth of a second slower than Rossi. That four men should finish so close together is an intriguing prospect, and promises much for the upcoming season.
Andrea Dovizioso ended the day in 5th, pleased with the gap of just eight tenths to the Yamahas and factory Honda, and ending ahead Alvaro Bautista on the Gresini Honda. Marc Marquez had his first difficult day on the Repsol Honda, having to adapt the Moto2 lines he had learned around Jerez and change section by section to a more MotoGP style, with less lean angle and more drive. Marquez still finished ahead of LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl, though only by a few hundredths of a second. Andrea Iannone took 9th slot on the Pramac Ducati, a second and a half behind Rossi, while the second Factory Ducati rider Nicky Hayden ended the day in 10th, despite a moment around the stadium section where he was nearly thrown out of the seat.
It rained today in Jerez. Boy did it rain. The heavens were open for much of the day, with the intensity of the rain varying between a light drizzle and an absolute deluge, sending people scurrying for cover when the skies darkened too much. A few brave souls ventured out to put in laps, but they did not last very long in the conditions. Until around 3pm, that is, when the rain let up, at least for an hour or so, and everyone took to the track. For two hours, testing was at full tilt, before the rain returned to chase most of the MotoGP men back into the pits.
Though having that much rain is hardly what the riders ordered, it still has its advantages. "It's good to be able to test on a fully wet track," Wilco Zeelenberg said after testing. "Normally, it's that half-wet, half-dry stuff, which is hopeless." Real work could be done on a wet set up, and lessons learned for 2013.
One of those lessons proved to be that the rain tires Bridgestone brought to Jerez are not as hardy as they may need to be. "The performance drops a lot after six, seven laps," Valentino Rossi told the press, explaining that the center of the tire wears very quickly. He was not the only one to complain: all of the factory riders, along with Cal Crutchlow, complained of the same thing. They had all destroyed two sets of rain tires in just a couple of hours, and with just four sets of rain tires to last the three days, they would not be able to manage if it rains on all three days.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after a very wet first day of testing at Jerez
Jorge Lorenzo has finished the first day of a rain-lashed Jerez test on top of the timesheets, getting within 8 seconds of the lap record despite a soaking track. The day started dismally, with a lot of heavy rain and only a few riders circulating, but shortly after 2pm the rain let up sufficiently to allow everyone but the Aspar riders Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro to go out and chase a wet set up. The rain returned in force some time around 5pm, causing most of the MotoGP men to return to their boxes, with only a few men, including Ducati test rider Michele Pirro, running through more laps.
Lorenzo was fast for most of the session, as was Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, who had seized the lead as soon as he took to the track. But with just four sets of wet tires to use for the entire test, and Jerez' abrasive asphalt tearing up the rears on the 1000cc MotoGP machines, securing the top spot was mainly a question of timing. Lorenzo set his fastest lap right at the point where there were no more rivers of rainwater crossing the track, giving him a lead of over a second over Pedrosa, who had been lapping earlier on.
So the final test of the year is upon us, and at last we know what the bike Valentino Rossi - oh, and by the way, reigning MotoGP World Champion and arguably the best motorcycle racer in the world (now that Casey Stoner has retired, and before Marc Marquez gets up to speed) Jorge Lorenzo - will be riding. That it was a big deal was obvious to anyone on Twitter, with a lot of buzz surrounding when the unveiling was, and what the bike would look like.
The crowd of photographers and journalists stood outside in the rain outside the Yamaha garage merely underlined the excitement. The media invitation to the Yamaha 2013 MotoGP launch promised snacks and an aperitif in their large and pleasant hospitality unit ahead of the bike unveiling in the garages. The hospitality unit was almost deserted, the media preferring the rain, and standing waiting to see a bike which everyone who had watched the Yamaha garages being built up the day before had a rough idea of what it would look like. Ducati may have the most prestigious and upmarket launch, but Yamaha certainly know how to generate excitement.
At the presentation of Yamaha's 2013 MotoGP campaign, where the bike which Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will ride in the coming season was unveiled, it was clear that there was one thing missing from the bike: this season, as for the last two years, Yamaha's MotoGP team will not have a title sponsor, but will campaign in corporate colors once again. Though the news hardly came as a surprise - the colors being used throughout the winter testing period suggested that Yamaha would be racing without a title sponsor - we were interested to find out whether the current situation is sustainable.
To that end, we cornered Yamaha Racing's Managing Director Lin Jarvis, and put a few questions to him. Firstly, we asked, could Yamaha's MotoGP team manage without a title sponsor, or was the expanded support from non-title sponsors sufficient? The answer to those questions was "yes and yes" Jarvis quipped. "We can manage, because we are a factory team, and so the basic point of us racing is not to make a profit the basic idea is to promote Yamaha's brand image around the world, to generate excitement in our industry and to develop our engineers and our technologies. Certainly, having more income definitely helps us, so we're constantly searching for new sponsorships, new partners."
"What I'm happy about is that we have retained almost all of our sponsors from last year, and some of them have stepped up. IVECO have stepped up, and increased. We've got Monster Energy on board now. They've been with the riders in the past, with Ben, but Monster coming on board has been a real boost, and has enabled us to put both riders together under the same Monster umbrella. That's completed what I call the Monster pyramid, because they support us in so many classes, but they missed that top class of MotoGP with the factory team. Our situation is better than last year in terms of income, but we still are constantly looking and pushing, not only for income, but also for new partners to promote."
As part of the launch of their 2013 MotoGP campaign, Yamaha issued a bumper crop of videos featuring interviews with key figures in the team. The videos are all posted on Yamaha's Youtube channel, but we have made a selection of some of them below.
First up are the riders. The first interview is with 2012 MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo:
Next is returning former champion Valentino Rossi:
The Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP team launched their 2013 campaign today, and unveiled the livery they will be defending this year. Below are the official photos of the bike, and the (highly vague) specs as provided by Yamaha. Yamaha have also provided a page with downloadable wallpapers of the bikes with and without Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo: