There are few motorsports venues more iconic than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Of the places I've visited, only Monza comes close: you can feel the ghosts of all the men and women who have raced there. With its massive grandstands and historic racing museum, the vast facility is breathtaking. It is a magic place.
Sadly, the magic is all around the 4 kilometer rectangular oval on which the Indy 500 is held, and not so much around the road course used by MotoGP. The rather tight, artificial infield road circuit feels very much like an afterthought, something retrofitted to allow a greater range of activities at the facility. If the oval layout is spectacular, the road course is positively pedestrian.
To the credit of the Speedway, they have done an awful lot to try to improve the track. Last year, there were at least four different types of asphalt around the circuit, and the infield section was considered too tight for overtaking maneuvers. In an effort to solve both those problems at a stroke, turns 3 and 4, turn 7 and turns 15 and 16 have all been modified. The changes are aimed at opening the corners up a little, making them a little faster and more flowing. The change at turns 3 and 4 should make for more natural corners, and a better transition back onto the outside oval. Turn 7 has been altered to open it up, making a more natural chicane rather than the right-angle corner it was before. Turns 15 and 16 are now a little more flowing, and again have been modified to provide a more natural transition onto the oval. At the same time, the infield has been completely resurfaced, so that it now has just one type of asphalt.
Press releases previews from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of this weekend's MotoGP round at Indianapolis:
Ducati And LCR Press Releases Confirming Crutchlow's Move To LCR, Dovizioso And Iannone At Factory Ducati For 2015
Press releases from Ducati Corse and LCR Honda confirming Cal Crutchlow's move from Ducati to LCR for the 2015 season, and Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso in the factory Ducati team:
Ducati Corse and Cal Crutchlow terminate contract ahead of 2015
Ducati Corse announced today that it has reached an agreement with its factory rider Cal Crutchlow to terminate, ahead of time, the contract that ties the British rider to the Italian team in MotoGP for the next season.
It looks like Ducati will get their all-Italian line-up after all. Both GPOne.com and Speedweek are reporting independently that Cal Crutchlow will be leaving Ducati to join LCR Honda for the 2015 season. Officially, Crutchlow had until 31st July to exercise his option to leave Ducati, but it appears that Ducati management agreed to an extension, while negotiations continued with Honda. An agreement was reached late last night, Speedweek is reporting, with one of the main points of contention being the payoff Crutchlow would receive from Ducati for leaving.
A week ago, Crutchlow announced that he would be staying with the Italian factory at the World Ducati Week event. Since then, however, the situation changed, with Crutchlow's manager Bob Moore reaching agreement with Ducati management to explore further options. That led directly to the release of Crutchlow to join LCR.
Crutchlow is the latest in a long line of victims claimed by the Italian marque. Marco Melandri was the first to leave, departing early from a two-year contract of struggling miserably in 2008. Valentino Rossi sat patiently through his two seasons at Ducati, seizing the opportunity to return to Yamaha as soon as he could. And now Cal Crutchlow, courted by Ducati for a long time in the belief that he could solve their problems, has also departed. Crutchlow has struggled all season long, both with a string of mechanical failures, and with trying to adapt his riding style to the difficult Desmosedici.
With MotoGP on its summer break, and the riders combining a bit of relaxation with a lot of training, there is time to review the first half of the season. Who has performed above expectations, and who has fallen short? Here's a rundown of how we rate the MotoGP riders over the first half of the season. Today, the top eight riders in the championship, from Marc Marquez to Andrea Iannone. The remainder, from Stefan Bradl to Mike Di Meglio, will appear on Friday.
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 problem at Ducati
It is good news that Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso have re-signed with Ducati, because if Gigi Dall’Igna hasn’t forgotten how to design a racing motorcycle, then his 100 per cent brand-new GP15 should stop the rot at Ducati.
And there’s a lot of rot to stop. Think back a decade to when Ducati could do no wrong: they were winning MotoGP races and World Superbike titles, performing David versus Goliath feats every weekend. Now they can’t win a thing. Last season was the first in a quarter of century of WSB that they didn’t win a single race and I can’t even remember when they last won a MotoGP race. Hang on, I’ll look it up. It was Phillip Island in 2010, with a certain Casey Stoner on board.
When was the last time Ducati won a MotoGP race without Stoner on board? Back to the history books: it was Loris Capirossi at Motegi 2007, when he made the right call in a wet-dry race. There have been 118 MotoGP races since then. In other words it seems like Ducati have forgotten how to design a racing motorcycle.
Silly Season Update - Ducati Confirmed, Suzuki Announcement Imminent, And Will Aprilia Be Back Sooner?
The Danish physicist and father of quantum physics Niels Bohr is reputed to have said "Prediction is hard, especially about the future." Just a few days after our comprehensive silly season update was posted, at the World Ducati Weekend event, Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone and Cal Crutchlow all confirmed they would be staying at Ducati for next season, throwing our predictions into disarray. None of the Ducati riders were leaving for Suzuki - or in Cal Crutchlow's case, a satellite Honda - meaning that the Japanese factory was forced to make a few adjustments to their plans. And not only Suzuki: since the Ducati announcement, more of the pieces of the 2015 MotoGP puzzle have started to fall into place. Time to revisit what we know so far, and what we expect in the next few days.
Ducati Line Up To Remain Unchanged For 2015: Crutchlow Dovizioso And Iannone To Ride Radically Revised Desmosedici GP15
After all the speculation of massive changes in Ducati's MotoGP team, all is to remain the same. During the World Ducati Week event held for fans of the Italian marque at Misano, both Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow announced that they would be remaining with Ducati for 2015, with Crutchlow choosing not to exercise his option to leave, and Dovizioso being persuaded to sign on for two more years. In addition, Ducati exercised its option to extend the contract with Andrea Iannone, with Iannone to be given factory support.
The decisions by all three riders are a both a show of confidence in the ability of Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna to build a more competitive MotoGP machine, as well as a lack of alternatives elsewhere. The only other factory rides available are the two seats at Suzuki, but given the slow pace of the bike during testing and the amount of development work needed, that was a bigger risk than staying at Ducati.
The Comprehensive Midsummer MotoGP Silly Season Update - Ducati, Suzuki, Aprilia, Satellite Rides, Moto2 And Much More
This year's silly season – the endless speculation about who will end up riding where next year – has not so far lived up to the expectations from the start of the year. With all four factory Honda and Yamaha riders out of contract at the end of 2014, real fireworks were expected in the battle to secure signatures. That bidding war never unfolded, and with Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa back with Repsol Honda, Valentino Rossi already signed up to Movistar Yamaha, and Jorge Lorenzo looks likely to finalize his deal – a two-year contract with some kind of option to depart after a year – before the season resumes again in Indianapolis.
But silly season has been far from a disappointment. Over the past couple of weeks, the jostling for the remaining seats in MotoGP has really taken off, with the promise of wholesale changes taking place up and down the grid. With the exception of Pol Espargaro, who is expected to remain at Tech 3 for the second year of his two-year contract with Yamaha, just about every other seat on the grid could see a new occupant. The arrival of Suzuki and, it now appears, Aprilia offers four new factory seats to vie for, opening up new opportunities for the current crop of riders. The upgrading of Honda's RCV1000R makes the production Honda a more attractive proposition. And there looks set to be an influx of young talent into the class. The 2015 MotoGP grid could look very different, once you look past the top four.
While the factory line ups at Honda and Yamaha will be unchanged for next year, the factory Ducati team is likely to sport two new faces for 2015. Although Cal Crutchlow has a year to go on his contract with the Italian factory, neither party is particularly happy with the arrangement. Crutchlow has never really got over the shock of just how poorly the Ducati turns compared to the Yamaha he left behind, and has found it hard to keep his criticism to himself. Ducati, in turn, are not enamored of Crutchlow's forthright manner of speaking, nor of his criticism of the bike. Crutchlow's results have also been a disappointment to Ducati, although the Italian factory must bear some of the blame, given the many mechanical and electronics issue the bike has suffered. Ducati point to the performance of both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, though conceding that the two Italians have already had a year on the bike. For anyone who rode the Desmosedici GP13, the GP14 is a huge improvement. For anyone who rode a 2013 Yamaha M1, it is a complete disaster.
2014 Sachsenring Sunday MotoGP Round Up - Marquez' Perfect Record, Dangerous Starts, And A Spaniard-Free Zone
The former England soccer player Gary Lineker once described the sport as follows: "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win." It feels somehow fitting to paraphrase that quote on the day that the Germans play in the World Cup final. Motorcycle racing is a simple sport, where 23 people ride a MotoGP bike as fast as they can, and Marc Marquez always wins.
He found yet another way to win at the Sachsenring. A heavy rain shower between the Moto2 race and the sighting lap for MotoGP left the grid in disarray, with about three quarters of the field heading in to swap from their wet to their dry bikes at the end of the warm up lap. That left fourteen riders to start from pit lane, five abreast, after jostling for position. At that point, the race should have been red flagged – more on that later – but instead, they all got out of pit lane safely. Just.
Marquez showed himself to be a master of improvisation, pitting quickly, swapping bikes and elbowing his way to the front of the pits. He took advantage of the chaos, exited pit lane first, and led the charge towards the shellshocked remainder of the pack who had started from the grid proper. He was 8.5 seconds behind the leader Stefan Bradl by the end of the first sector, a deficit which he had cut to 7.7 seconds by the end of the first lap. Before the sixth lap was completed, he had caught and passed the LCR Honda man, going on to win his ninth straight MotoGP race with relative ease. He faced an early challenge from his teammate Dani Pedrosa, but Marquez was more aggressive in getting past Bradl, where Pedrosa hesitated for a second. Pedrosa pushed hard once past, nearly caught Marquez, but faded towards the end.
Press releases from Bridgestone and the MotoGP teams after Sunday's strange German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring:
Press releases from Bridgestone and the MotoGP teams after Saturday's qualifying for the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring:
2014 Sachsenring Friday MotoGP Round Up - Marquez' Big Crash, Some Fast Yamahas, And Fixing Turn 11 Again
There are those who say that Marc Marquez is due a big crash soon. He is always riding so close to the edge of traction that at some point, he will go over the limit and suffer the consequences, they reason. They will therefore not have been surprised to learn that Marquez had a huge highside on Friday morning. What will surprise them is the cause of the crash. It was not due to pushing his Honda RC213V beyond the limits of adhesion, he explained to the media afterwards, but was caused by a minor slip of his foot. His toe touched the gear lever, clicking the bike into 3rd, and that caused the rear tire to grip momentarily and flick him off.
The crash happened at Turn 2. "You turn with the gas in second gear," Marquez said. "I didn't know at the time, but I was touching a little bit the gear lever." In the last part of the corner, he accidentally engaged third, and as he kept the throttle in the same position, the bike highsided. Marquez was thrown upside down, and landed on his neck. He was lucky to walk away, but walk away he did. He returned to the garages and was straight back on the bike again, posting the sixth fastest time, six tenths off the pace of Aleix Espargaro, and a third of a second behind Jorge Lorenzo.
By the afternoon, Marquez was back at full speed, and second quickest behind Aleix Espargaro once again. He still had some stiffness in his neck, he said, but it was not really hindering him. "The neck feels a bit locked in some corners, but it is not a problem," he said. Intensive physiotherapy kept his neck warm, and prevented it from seizing up and becoming painful. That only happened after the session was over, and his neck started to cool down.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at the Sachsenring:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone previewing this weekend's German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring: