Given Marc Marquez' dominance of the 2014 MotoGP championship, the question is not if, but when he will wrap up his second title in a row. His original aim had been to win the title in front of his home crowd at Aragon, but crashes at Misano and then Aragon put paid to that idea. With a massive lead in the championship, Marquez heads to the flyaway races with his primary aim shifted from winning at all costs, to making sure he returns to Spain and the final round of the series with the title already safely under his belt.
Motegi is the first opportunity for Marquez to take the title, and wrapping it up there would please his HRC bosses, as the circuit is owned by Honda and operated by a subsidiary. But it is not a simple question of turning up and finishing, the reigning champion will have to ensure his rivals do not gain too much back on him if he is to lift the crown there. He has a 75 point lead over his Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, a 78 point advantage over Movistar Yamaha's Valentino Rossi, and a 90 point lead over the second factory Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo. So what does Marquez need to do to win the title?
The first of the official announcements to be made over this weekend has arrived. Today, the FIM released the provisional version of the 2015 calendar for MotoGP.
The schedule is a virtual carbon copy of the 2014 calendar this year, with the order of the races the same as this year. A few minor tweaks have been applied to the calendar: the series kicks off in Qatar on 29th March, a week later than originally planned to avoid a TV clash with the soccer game between Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain. Two weeks later, the circus heads to Austin, and the following week to Argentina.
Having the two races in the Americas back-to-back will create a much easier schedule than this year, where the teams faced a very long journey back from Argentina to arrive on time for Jerez. With a year of experience under their belt, Dorna's logistics and TV crew are now certain they can get the Termas de Rio Hondo track ready within the few days they have after Austin.
At Silverstone, the provisional testing calendar for the winter of 2015 was agreed. Preseason testing for the 2015 MotoGP season will take place at the usual locations, starting with the post-race test at Valencia, and continuing at Sepang and Qatar for MotoGP, while Moto2 and Moto3 go to Valencia and Jerez.
The 2015 season gets underway on the Monday after the final race of 2014 at Valencia, the MotoGP bikes testing from Monday through Wednesday. After the traditional winter test ban in December and January, testing will once again resume at Sepang, on 4th February. The MotoGP teams return to Sepang for the second test on the 23rd of February, before heading to Qatar. The dates of the Qatar test has not yet been fixed, as it depends on the date of the opening round of MotoGP at Qatar. That race will either be on the 15th or 22nd of March, but the date cannot be finalized until the Formula One series draws up a calendar. The Qatar test will take place a week before the race at the circuit.
Colin Edwards To Enter Semi-Retirement Early: Will Race Indy, Silverstone And Valencia, And That's It?
Colin Edwards will contest only three more MotoGP rounds in the 2014 season. The Texan is to race at Indianapolis, Silverstone and Valencia, before hanging up his helmet. From Brno, Alex De Angelis will take Edwards' place, and Edwards will race as a third rider for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team in the UK and at the last race of the year.
Edwards' final year in MotoGP has not gone according to plan. The Texas Tornado had hoped that the arrival of the Yamaha Open class bike at Forward, to replace the Kawasaki-powered CRT machine would spark a revival in his fortunes. When Edwards finally got to ride the Open class Yamaha, however, he found to his dismay that he could not get on with the Yamaha chassis, and was unable to get the bike to turn. He had pinned his hopes on the arrival of a chassis from FTR, but financial problems for the British chassis manufacturer meant he was left to struggle with the Yamaha frame until Mugello. When a new chassis did arrive, fresh from the drawing board of now ex-FTR designer Mark Taylor, it did not see Edwards drastically improve his pace.
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:
Rising temperatures may have dispelled the arctic chill that held sway at Valencia for the beginning of the Moto2 and Moto3 test, conditions were still far from ideal on the final day. High winds set in, causing problems for riders in both classes, though especially for the bantamweight Moto3 class, and causing a spate of crashes. Niccolo Antonelli, fastest man over all three days, was one of many to go down, the list also including Dutchman Scott Deroue, Danny Kent and Enea Bastianini. Unlike previous days, nobody was injured, and all continued to ride, though Bastianini complained of headaches and Deroue suffered back pain. They weren't the only people riding with injury: Gino Rea soldiered bravely on despite having broken a foot on Wednesday, relieving the pain by sticking his ankle in a bucket of ice water between stints.
The winds meant that very few riders improved their times in the Moto3 class, Niccolo Antonelli remaining the fastest over all three days, though Jack Miller took the honors for the fastest man on the last day. Antonelli has been impressive throughout all three days of testing, having adapted to the KTM very quickly. Miller, likewise, was still getting used to the KTM, enjoying the added power, while adjusting to the handling of the Austrian Moto3 bike, which does not corner as well as his old FTR Honda. The excess power more than compensated, but Miller spent the day working through various linkages and set up options in an attempt to get the bike to turn a little bit better.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after testing at Valencia:
Times at the end of the final day of testing for the Moto2 class at Valencia:
Times at the end of the final day of testing for the Moto3 class at Valencia:
Times at lunchtime for the Moto2 class on the last day of testing at Valencia:
Times at lunchtime for the Moto3 class on the final day of the Valencia test:
Conditions improved a little for the second day of testing at Valencia, with warmer temperatures seeing times drop. The Moto2 riders were an average of a second faster than Tuesday, the Moto3 riders even faster, a second-and-a-half quicker than yesterday.
Improvement was pretty even across the field, in both classes. In the Moto3 class, the chasing hordes closed the gap on Niccolo Antonelli, though the young Italian continued to top the timesheets. He has Jack Miller breathing down his neck, however, the Australian ending the day just eight thousandths of a second behind the Italian.
With an Italian leading, an Australian in 2nd and young Brit Danny Kent in 3rd, the top of the Moto3 class has a decidedly international feel. The contrast with last year, where Spaniards took all but 5 of the 51 available podium positions, is huge. There is only one Spaniard - Isaac Viñales - in the top 5 at Valencia, and a total of 3 in the top 10. Italians feature heavily - the investment made by the Italian Federation over the past few years is very slowly starting to pay off - but there is also a Brit, an Australian and a Portuguese rider. The increased variety looks promising for 2014.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the second day of testing at Valencia:
Combined times from all three sessions of Moto2 at the end of the second day of testing at Valencia:
Combined times from all three Moto3 session at the test in Valencia on Wednesday: