Motorland Aragon, Spain
At long last, the FIM and Dorna have released a calendar for the World Superbike and World Supersport classes for 2014. The calendar features fourteen World Superbike events, but it is still very much a provisional list, with three of the fourteen still subject to contract, and the final race still marked as to be confirmed, with neither the location nor the country known.
The season kicks off as always in Australia, the World Superbike and World Supersport classes headed to the Phillip Island circuit for the opener on 23rd of February. There follows another WSBK tradition: the interminable wait for round 2. In 2014, there are seven weeks between the first and second rounds, with the second event taking place at the Motorland Aragon circuit just outside of Alcañiz. The WSBK circus then takes off for a tour through Europe, heading to Assen, Imola and Donington Park, before heading overseas again to Sepang, and a Malaysian round. Two rounds in Europ follow, at Misano and Portimao, before the World Superbike class heads to Laguna Seca, taking the slot vacated by the MotoGP class.
Loris Baz has topped the timesheets at the two-day test held at Aragon for some of the World Superbike teams. Baz had spent the test working on bike set up, on a track he has not run well on in the past. The Frenchman ended up three tenths quicker than Jonathan Rea, at his first full test after returning from a broken femur. Rea and Pata Honda teammate Leon Haslam spent most of their time working on electronics, making big steps with the HRC package they had struggled with for most of the season. Rea was two tenths quicker than Chaz Davies on the factory Ducati, the Welshman making his second test on the Italian machine, and ending up ahead of Marco Melandri on the factory Aprilia.
Major absentee at the test was reigning world champion Tom Sykes. The Yorkshireman had been scheduled to test, but his wife went into labor before the test started, and Sykes rushed back to be with his wife as she gave birth to their baby daughter.
Unofficial test times:
Below are the FIM press releases announcing the punishments imposed by Race Direction on Marc Marquez after the incident with Dani Pedrosa in the MotoGP race at Aragon, and Sandro Cortese after the incident with Alex De Angelis in the Moto2 race at Aragon:
Marc Marquez has been handed a penalty point for his role in the incident with Dani Pedrosa at Aragon. On lap 6 of the Aragon race, Marquez braked a little too late for Turn 12, found himself running into the back of his teammate Dani Pedrosa, the picked the bike up to run it wide. In doing so, he just touched the back of Pedrosa's bike, severing the rear wheel speed sensor and sending the Honda's traction control system into full power mode, causing Pedrosa to be thrown from the bike when he opened the throttle.
Despite initially dimissing the crash as a normal racing incident, Race Direction had held the incident under investigation after the Aragon race, while they waited for further technical data from Honda on the crash. That data was delivered to them at Sepang, and after examining it, Race Direction found both Marc Marquez and HRC culpable for the crash, Marquez for riding in an irresponsible manner (violating section 1.21.2 of the Disciplinary code, the catch-all for dangerous riding) and HRC for endangering their riders by using a vulnerable design for a vital part of a system which is so important to the safety and performance of the motorcycle.
Today, Bridgestone issued their customary post-race debrief after the MotoGP race at Aragon. After a relatively uneventful weekend - at least in terms of tires - Masao Azuma talks about the influence of changing conditions on tire choice at Aragon:
Aragon MotoGP™ debrief with Masao Azuma
Thursday 3 October 2013
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft & Hard. Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main) & Hard (Alternative)
Marc Marquez won his sixth race of the year at Motorland Aragon, the rookie taking another step to a maiden MotoGP™ title after winning ahead of the Yamaha Factory Racing duo of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi who finished second and third respectively.
Conditions on Sunday were cool and dry, with track temperatures peaking at 34°C during the race. The mild temperatures saw the whole grid select softer rear slick options, while all but four riders selected the hard compound front slick for Sunday’s twenty-three lap contest. The pace at this year’s Aragon Grand Prix was the quickest at this venue since its introduction to the calendar in 2010, with new qualifying and race lap records being set and an overall race time seven seconds quicker than the previous record.
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.
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Márquez and Pedrosa clash at Aragon
“I didn’t see the touch, but I think Marc should be penalised for two or three seasons!” That was Valentino Rossi’s take on the latest Márquez controversy on Sunday.
Personally, I think the nine-time champ is being a bit harsh on the kid. I think Márquez should be handed another two-point penalty. This, in addition to the two points he got for not respecting yellow flags during Silverstone warm-up, will take him to four points. And that would mean he must start the next race from the back of the grid.
Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam will return to the Pata Honda team for the 2014 World Superbike season. Both men have extended their contracts for one more season, giving the aging CBR1000RR what is expected to be its last season before a new bike makes an appearance.
The pairing has been plagued by injury this season, and despite increased support from HRC for 2013, the results have not been as the team had hoped. The problems had caused Johnny Rea to look elsewhere for 2014, the Ulsterman having held talks with Forward Racing about riding one of the Yamaha machines, as well as having spoken to Ducati about replacing Ben Spies in the Pramac team. In the end, the Pata Honda team was his best option for 2014.
One disappointment has been the lack of the expected V4 Honda superbike. Honda had been expected to reveal the bike at the EICMA show this November, but the Japanese manufacturer appears to have postponed the release of the new bike due to the dismal market for sports bikes. Whether the delay will turn into a cancellation is as yet unknown.
The Pata Honda press release appears below:
Pata Honda confirms 2014 SBK line-up
The Pata Honda World Superbike team has announced that it will retain the same rider line-up of Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam heading into the 2014 world championship season.
Press releases from the MotoGP team and Bridgestone after Sunday's eventful Grand Prix at Aragon:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's racing at the Motorland Aragon circuit:
The Aragon round of MotoGP left an awful lot to talk about in all three classes: Alex Rins' masterful victory in Moto3, forcing Maverick Viñales into an error; Nico Terol's emotional win in Moto2, dominating all weekend after illness; Scott Redding and Pol Espargaro's epic battle for the Moto2 championship, which Espargaro came out on top of, though only just; Jorge Lorenzo's astonishing speed at what should have been a Honda track; Marc Marquez' astounding victory, moving him closer to the 2013 MotoGP title in his rookie year; Valentino Rossi's wily race, holding off first Stefan Bradl and then Alvaro Bautista to get on the podium; and much, much more. But I won't be talking about any of that tonight.
I won't be talking about it, because what started out as a minor mistake turned into a massive incident, with a spectacular crash as a result, leading to an ongoing investigation by race direction and a lot of talk about dangerous riding. Do the facts justify the debate? In my opinion, no, but the issue needs addressing, and so address it we will.
First, the facts, insofar as we know them. Jorge Lorenzo led away from the line, and was quickly hunted down by Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa passed Marquez cleanly on lap 5, on the way up to the Sacacorchos, or turns 8 and 9. Marquez sat behind Pedrosa for a lap, harrying his teammate throughout. On lap 6, on the way into turn 12, Marquez made a small mistake, getting a little too close and braking a fraction too late. Seeing that he was going too deep, Marquez tried to stand the bike up and run it wide, in an attempt to avoid prejudicing Pedrosa's race. He did not quite manage to avoid contact with Pedrosa, just clipping the back wheel of his teammate, a contact which at first seemed to have no effect on Pedrosa. Marquez ran wide and off the track, Pedrosa continued for a few meters, before highsiding suddenly and unexpectedly.
Full report and results below: