Two races in, and patterns are already starting to emerge in Grand Prix's junior classes. In Moto2, preseason favorite Tito Rabat is living up to expectations as his challenges fall by the wayside. In Moto3, Jack Miller has a far firmer stranglehold on the class than expected, while the new Honda NSF250RW is proving that when HRC put their minds to building a factory race bike, the competition had better watch out.
Austin, Texas, proved to be a case in point. A bizarre start to the Moto2 race saw a massive pile up at the treacherous first corner, the run up the hill combining with the massive nerves of a Moto2 start – arguably motorcycle racing's most rabid class – to produce chaos. Josh Herrin, feeling the strain of coming in as reigning AMA Superbike champion to find himself running anonymously in mid-pack in Moto2, ran in to Turn 1 too hot, try to jam his Caterham Suter into a spot which wasn't there, and ended up taking down half the field. Herrin was understandably nervous in front of his home crowd, and feeling the pressure of being the ambassador for American racers, but he did himself and any AMA hopefuls looking to Moto2 a disservice. Herrin fractured a collarbone whle training, and so will have to wait until Jerez to start to make amends.
Championship leader Tito Rabat also got a mediocre start from pole, then dropped back a long way in the first couple of laps, before starting to fight his way forward again. Xavier Simeon looked like making it a very big day for Belgium for most of the race, before massively outbraking himself on the way into Turn 1 as he came under press from Dominique Aegerter and Maverick Viñales. Aegerter led for a while, but he could offer no resistance to Viñales. The reigning Moto3 champion quickly opened a gap and crossed the line with a comfortable margin to spare.
The Argentinian round of MotoGP will be the first time a major racing series has visited the Termas de Rio Hondo, the brand new circuit in northern Argentina. As the track is still so new, the circuit designers - Dromo Racetrack Design from Italy - have produced some background material containing key facts about the circuit.
Alongside the list of facts, there are also a couple of interesting infographics giving a better idea of what the track is like. There is a track map showing the elevation change on the circuit. But most interesting of all, is the map created using simulation software to estimate which corner will be taken in which gear, and what speeds will be reached.
As a primer to getting an idea of what to expect this weekend, these infographics, along with the press release from Marc VDS Racing and video lap, are great place to start. Action starts in Argentina on Thursday.
Termas de Rio Hondo MotoGP Lap Time - Simulated with DroCAS™ [Infographic]
Using DroCAS™ simulators, Dromo designed the racetrack as per vehicle dynamics and to enhance rider's skills capabilities.
The result is a fast flowing racetrack as provided in the infographics.
With the MotoGP circus about to visit Argentina for the first time in 15 years, it's a good time to take a look at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, the brand new circuit added to MotoGP calendar for the 2014 season. A handful of riders rode at the circuit last year, including Tito Rabat, Cal Crutchlow and Stefan Bradl, to gather some data for the tire firms involved in MotoGP. Bearing that experience in mind, the Marc VDS Racing team today issued a press release in which Tito Rabat gives his impression of the circuit. Rabat's description gives a good general sense of how the layout will work during racing.
To go along with Rabat's description of the track, a Youtube video of a lap of the circuit has been added. Though the video is taken from onboard of a Kawasaki ZX-6R ridden by Argentinian Supersport rider René Zanatta, it still gives a good idea of the layout of the circuit. The video appears below the press release from Marc VDS Racing:
Tito’s take on Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo
Gosselies, Belgium - 21 April 2014: While most of the Moto2 riders will get their first glimpse of the all-new Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo on Wednesday, Tito Rabat was one of only two Moto2 riders that travelled out to Argentina last year to spend two days testing on the track.
The Moto2 championship leader was impressed with both the layout of the circuit and the enthusiasm of the Argentinian race fans he met during his visit.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's race in Austin:
Those who fear a Marquez whitewash at the Circuit of the Americas could draw some comfort from the raw numbers on the timesheets as Saturday progressed. Marquez gap from Friday was cut dramatically, first to under a second in FP3, then to a third of a second in FP4, before being slashed to less than three tenths in qualifying. Is the end of Marquez' dominance at Austin in sight?
But raw numbers are deceptive. Sure, the gap in single lap times is small, but there is still no one who can get close to the reigning world champion. Marquez' four flying laps were faster than the best laps by any other rider on the grid. Second place man Dani Pedrosa's fastest lap was still slower than Marquez' slowest. In FP4, Marquez punched out four laps in the 2'03s, while the best anyone else could do is lap in the 2'04s. During the morning FP3 session, Marquez racked up five 2'03s, while only Pedrosa could manage two 2'03s, Stefan Bradl, Andrea Dovizioso and Bradley Smith managing only a single solitary lap under 2'04.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Austin:
Thomas Luthi set the fastest Moto2 lap of the day to top the timesheet in the third practice session Saturday at Austin's COTA. Luthi's 2'10.871 didn't match the top times from 2013 or even 2014's FP2, but it was enough to put him six-hundreths clear of Maverick Vinales' second-fastest showing.
Tito Rabat, winner in Qatar, finished as the third fastest rider headed into qualifying later Saturday. Jonas Folger (4th) and Johann Zarco (fifth) completed the top five. Zarco, fastest in the prior two practices, was unable to dip into the 2'10s as he did on Friday. In fact, Luthi's top FP3 time Saturday didn't match Zarco's fastest lap in Friday's FP2 of 2'10.839.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Austin:
Johann Zarco made this point clear to the Moto2 field: The first free practice was no fluke. Zarco, who finished sixth in the race here last year, set the fastest time for the second practice in a row Friday at the COTA circuit with a 2'10.839. He was the only Moto2 rider to dip into the 2'10s.
The time is two-tenths of a second better than Dominic Aegerter's second fastest showing and just three-tenths slower than the pole-position time from last year (set by Scott Redding).
Tito Rabat also upped his pace from FP1 but only closed to third-fastest, three-tenths shy of of Zarco's time. Maverick Vinales (4th) and Xavier Simeon (5th) ended their day only four-thousandths of a second apart.
For all joy in the Caterham-Suter team with Zarco's pace, there also came a sobering reality: Teammate and lone American in Moto2 -- former AMA superbike champion and Moto2 rookie Josh Herrin -- nearly gave the team the odd distinction of having both the fastest and slowest times on the sheet with his 30th-place showing, nearly four seconds off the pace.