The FIM has today released the final, official version of the 2014 MotoGP calendar. As expected, the Brazil round has been dropped, after it became clear that construction work at the Autodromo Nelson Piquet in Brasilia would not be completed in time for the September round. To ease the congestion in that part of the season, the date of the Aragon round has now been pushed back a week, and will take place on 28th September, the date originally scheduled for Brazil.
The dropping of the Brazil round had been expected almost from the moment it was placed on the schedule. There were serious doubts that the circuit would be able to make the necessary changes in time for September 2014, and teams were informed of the doubts which Dorna and IRTA had. The inclusion of Brazil was a statement of intent, with both Dorna and the manufacturers keen to return to South America, as both Brazil and Argentina are key markets. Actually racing in Brazil will depend one of the circuits still in the country being able to make the necessary modifications to make it safe enough for Grand Prix motorcycles.
Below is the official, finalized version of the 2014 MotoGP calendar:
The first major change to the 2014 MotoGP schedule has been announced. Though the dates remain the same, the order of the Asian flyaway triple header has been reshuffled, with Sepang moving from first of the three to last. The Grand Prix classes will now head to Japan first, for the Japanese GP at Motegi on 12th October, before heading south to Australia for the Phillip Island round a week later, on 19th October. The weekend after that the MotoGP paddock visits Malaysia, for the last of the three overseas races at Sepang on 26th October.
The change is unlikely to be the last. It is widely anticipated that the new track in Brasilia will not be ready for the Brazilian round of MotoGP on 28th September, and that the Motorland Aragon race, due to take place on 21st September, will be rescheduled for a week later. That decision will not take place for some time, however, as the Autodromo Brasilia Nelson Piquet will be given a few more months before the mandatory circuit homologation inspection.
Below is the updated, and still provisional, 2014 MotoGP calendar, with changes highlighted in bold. You can always find the latest, most up-to-date version including all changes on this page.
The 2014 MotoGP calendar:
Valentino Rossi has acknowledged he is one step closer to retirement. In an interview to be broadcast Italian TV channel Mediaset, the Italian said that the early tests and the first six races of 2014 would be crucial to the future of his career. 'In 2014 I need to be at the front, closer to the first three', Rossi said, referring to the Spanish trio of Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, who dominated the 2013 MotoGP season. He has not lost his appetite for racing, Rossi told Italian TV, but he was not content just to circulate. 'I would like to continue for another couple of years, but only if I'm competitive.'
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.
After testing completed at Misano, Suzuki's fledgling MotoGP program decamped to Mugello, to continue the test program started last week. Testing was aimed mainly at confirming the chassis choice made at Misano, and working further on the new fairing and electronics. The test was deemed a success, with Randy De Puniet confirming the main problem the bike now has is rear grip. De Puniet posted a fastest lap of 1'49.260, some 1.6 seconds off the race lap record of 1'47.639 set by Marc Marquez earlier this year, and around half a second slower than Ducati, who have many thousands of testing laps around the circuit.
The press release issued by Suzuki appears below:
SUZUKI MOTOGP CONFIRM DIRECTION AT MUGELLO
Team Suzuki Press Office - September 25.
The Suzuki MotoGP Test Team has completed a positive two-day test at the Mugello circuit in Italy today with more valuable data and more revised settings to move forward from its 2013 test and development programme.
Though Ducati have told Nicky Hayden that there is no room for him in their factory MotoGP team, it is no secret that they would like to keep him within the Ducati family. The American retains a huge following in his native country (according to Google Trends, he is the second most searched MotoGP rider, after Valentino Rossi, though Marc Marquez is hot on his heels) and is a favorite with sponsors thanks to his willingness to help the people who help pay his salary. Hayden has been a great ambassador for Ducati in the US during his four and a half year tenure at the Italian factory.
So Ducati are doing all they can to persuade Hayden to move to World Superbikes, and take on the challenge of racing the 1199 Panigale R. To that end, Hayden rode the World Superbike-spec version of the bike at Mugello last week, to assess what he was getting into before making a decision. Hayden was fast: according to reliable reports from the UK site Bikesportnews.com, Hayden was quickly under the unofficial WSBK lap record at the track, posting a time of 1'51.2, faster than Troy Bayliss went at the iconic Italian circuit when he rode the Panigale there earlier this year, according to Superbikeplanet.com.
Having a test rider who can put in a competitive lap time is important to factories when they are developing their bikes. Having a world champion who can match the pace of the fastest men on the planet is sheer luxury. Two factories find themselves in this situation, with vastly different purposes and outcome. Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner are testing radically different bikes on nearly opposite sides of the planet, to help their respective (former) employers.
Nicky Hayden has been testing Ducati's Panigale 1199R World Superbike machine at Mugello on Wednesday, the American both providing development input on the troublesome machine, as well as using it as an opportunity to test the WSBK waters and decide whether he wishes to switch from MotoGP. Ducati are keen to retain the services of the American, and are reported to have offered him a very generous offer to race the Panigale in World Superbikes with the Alstare Ducati team. Ducati need a rider who is fast, diligent and can put in the effort to help move the Panigale project forward.
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.
The troubled waters through which Cal Crutchlow has found himself sailing with Yamaha have been calmed a little. The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider and his manager Bob Moore held their first face-to-face meeting with Yamaha bosses Lin Jarvis and Masahiko Nakajima on the Sunday night after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, to discuss the options for extending their relationship for next year.
Also present at the meeting was Monster Tech 3 Yamaha boss Hervé Poncharal, who has been very vocal in his desire to retain the British rider. Crutchlow's results have been a real boon for the French team, and his outspoken and impish personality have helped attract a large amount of media attention. Poncharal has been mediating between Yamaha and Crutchlow, and is trying to secure an extension of Crutchlow's contract with the team for 2014.
Max Biaggi's brief return to MotoGP is over. After two days of testing Ducati's MotoGP bike at Mugello, filling in for the injured Ben Spies, Biaggi returns to his day job, as TV commentator for the Italian coverage of World Superbikes.
Two short days were not really enough time for Biaggi to get back to grips with a MotoGP bike, especially given that testing stopped early on both days after rain started to fall in the afternoon. Biaggi faced two problems, returning to riding at speed for the first time in eight months, and returning to a MotoGP bike for the first time in over seven years. Given those difficulties, the times he set in the end were respectable. According to GPOne.com, who had reporter Luca Semprini on location, Biaggi's best time was a lap of 1'52.1, which would have seen him qualify in 23rd position for last Sunday's MotoGP race, just ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama on the FTR Kawasaki CRT machine.