Alberto Puig is to take on a new role inside Honda. Brought into HRC as advisor to Dani Pedrosa, the former 500cc race winner is to focus his efforts more on talent development for Honda, starting with the Asia Talent Cup.
Puig has a long and very successful history of spotting and developing talent. The Spaniard was the driving force behind the MotoGP Academy, the forerunner of Red Bull Rookies Cup, and before that, had worked with Telefonica Movistar in the Spanish championship. That work had produced a string of highly successful riders in various classes, including several world champions. Alongside Dani Pedrosa, Puig was responsible for Casey Stoner, Julian Simon, Bradley Smith, Joan Lascorz and Leon Camier.
Having Puig work in the Asia Talent Cup is a clever move for Honda. The Japanese company is keenly aware of the importance of the Asian market for its sales, and bringing on talent from the region will be a powerful marketing tool. HRC also has a long history of backing Japanese riders in Grand Prix racing, and after a relatively lean period for Japanese talent, having Puig help spot and develop them early should help bring more fast young Japanese riders into the sport.
Yamaha's MotoGP team looks set to gain another sponsor for 2014. According to the PU24.it website - the same website which broke the news of Rossi's decision to drop Jeremy Burgess - sportswear manufacturer Adidas is set to sponsor the factory Yamaha team of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo next season.
The deal is said to be part of a larger contract, which will involve the Team Sky VR46 Moto3 squad as well. The deal appears mainly aimed at the Italian market: according to the PU24 website, one of the benefits for Adidas will be better visibility for its ads on the Sky Italia channel, which will be broadcasting MotoGP in Italy next year, and which is also a co-sponsor of Valentino Rossi's Team Sky VR46 Moto3 squad. The deal is rumored to be a two-year contract, though how much money is involved is currently unknown.
Testing for the Grand Prix support classes continues at Almeria, with a large chunk of the Moto2 field, as well as a selection of Moto3 riders at the Spanish circuit. The test sees both new bikes and new riders take to the track, with Kalex rolling out their 2014 chassis, while Honda is testing its brand new Moto3 bike.
Fastest Moto2 man of the day was Maverick Viñales, the Moto3 champion making a very strong impression and ending ahead of Mapfre Aspar's Jordi Torres, a man who won the Moto2 race at the Sachsenring this year. Xavier Simeon was third fastest, ending just ahead of of Sandro Cortese. Cortese tested both the 2013 and 2014 Kalex chassis, and was eight tenths quicker on the 2014 machine, according to Speedweek.com.
Among the Moto3 riders, Alex Rins set the fastest time, but with only the Hondas and Mahindras on track, there is little to compare it to. While Rins posted a 1'41.3, that is still over a second off the 1'40.1 Jack Miller is said to have set last week at the track on the KTM. The Hondas struggled with teething troubles, the test being a genuine shakedown, and the teams first contact with the bike. On Tuesday, the Hondas went out with the FTR chassis, the plan being to test Honda's own chassis either on Wednesday or Thursday, once the engine bugs have been ironed out.
It's been a busy time for motorcycle racing in the south of Spain. With the winter test ban about to commence, and now in force for both MotoGP and World Superbikes, the teams are heading south to get some development work done while they still can. For the World Superbike and MotoGP Open class teams, their destination is Jerez, while Moto2 and Moto3 are at Almeria, in Spain's southeastern corner.
At Jerez, Suzuki has just wrapped up a test, and Yakhnich Motorsport are taking the MV Agusta F4RR out for its first spin. The Jerez test was Eugene Laverty's first opportunity to ride the GSX-R1000, after the Irishman had signed for the Crescent Suzuki team, who have swapped title sponsors from Fixi to Voltcom. The move is a step down from the full factory Aprilia team for Laverty, but it is a long-term investment for the Irishman. Speaking to German language website Speedweek.com, Laverty explained that he believed that it was easier to move development on a project forward with a smaller group of people than inside a large organization.
A day after the provisional entry lists for the Grand Prix classes were released by the FIM, and there's one change already. Today, Husqvarna announced that they would be joining the Moto3 world championship, and fielding a factory team.
The Red Bull Husqvarna Factory Racing team will be run by Aki Ajo, and have Danny Kent as rider. Furthermore, Husqvarna will also be providing support for Niklas Ajo in the Avant Tecno team.
The announcement that Husqvarna is racing in Moto3 does not mean a brand new bike will be entered. The Husqvarna will be a rebadged KTM, run under a similar arrangement as Gilera and Derbi in the 250cc and 125cc classes, which were really just rebadged Aprilias. Danny Kent's Moto3 bike will be a factory KTM with a Husqvarna badge on the tank. That KTM would use such an arrangement is not unusual: Pierer Industries, the majority stakeholder in KTM, is also 100% owner of Husqvarna, having acquired the brand earlier this year. Husqvarna off-road bikes are currently being produced in KTM's factory in Mattighofen, Austria.
The FIM today announced the provisional entry lists for the 2014 season in all three classes. Despite the loss of Maverick Viñales and Luis Salom, who are moving up to Moto2, the Moto3 class looks like being another thrilling and close race to the end of the year. Alex Rins and Jack Miller are currently the hot favorites for the title, with Rins' Estrella Galicia teammate Alex Marquez likely to be a candidate too, after his outstanding rookie year in the series. Miller's Red Bull KTM teammate Danny Kent will also be aiming to battle for the championship, the British youngster having stepped back to the Moto3 class with the express purpose of winning the championship.
Among the riders currently viewed as outsiders, Miguel Oliveira features strongly as a contender after a very strong year on the Mahindra. Jakub Kornfeil moves up to take the bike vacated by 2013 Moto3 champion Maverick Viñales, while much is expected of the new Team Sky VR46 squad of Romano Fenati and Francesco Bagnaia, the team set up by Valentino Rossi and with former Ducati man Vitto Guareschi as team manager. There will also be a lot of attention for Karel Hanika, the Czech youngster making the move up from the Red Bull Rookies. Hanika is rated very highly in the Moto3 paddock, and his testing times have already shown promise.
Testing has concluded for the Moto2 and Moto3 teams who headed south to Jerez after the final round at Valencia, the picture on the second day is very similar to that on the first day. Thomas Luthi continues to top the timesheets in the Moto2 class, destroying the pole record by seven tenths of a second, and proving he is very much in form. Tito Rabat grabbed second spot, the Spaniard drafted in to replace Scott Redding already proving to be a smart move by Marc VDS Racing, while Jordi Torres was third.
Sam Lowes confirmed his promise from the first day of testing, ending day 2 in seventh once again, and under a second off the blistering pace set by Luthi. After dominating Moto3, both Maverick Viñales and Luis Salom are finding it much tougher going in the Moto2 category, the step up from a 100 kg single to a 140kg four cylinder proving to be a major difference. Sandwiched between the two former Moto3 men is AMA champion Josh Herrin, all three men over two seconds off the pace of Luthi.
In the Moto3 class, Jack Miller continues to dominate the small group who gathered at Jerez. Miller ended the test four tenths up on Danny Kent, the young British rider finding his feet on his return to the Moto3 class. Karel Hanika is less than a tenth off the pace of Kent, demonstrating his readiness to make the leap from the Red Bull Rookies Cup.
In part one of our interview with Mike Webb, the MotoGP Race Director talked about the penalty point system and how it had worked in 2013. In the second part, talks about the tire debacle at Phillip Island. Webb explains what the teams were told about the rules and the penalties they would incur, and he discusses the incident on the exit of pit lane between Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo. He explains how Race Direction felt the dry flag-to-flag race went, and whether the situation could be handled any differently.
Webb also explains why penalty points are only handed out at the front of the race, while the battle mid-pack can be much fiercer than anything happening for the lead. Finally, Mike Webb casts an eye on the future, and explains the next steps towards improving safety, and improving communication with the riders.
Q: Phillip Island. First of all, I've seen the sheet of paper that was passed out to all the teams …
Mike Webb: Several sheets of paper, unfortunately. It changed several times, we were forced to. There was Moto2 for a start, that changed several times, and the same situation in MotoGP, where we had a meeting with the tire supplier, and they told us, OK, this is how many laps the tire can safely do, our recommendation from the tire supplier is that how many laps the tire can do, now it's up to you to make a decision on the race. And that information changed, during Saturday and then after Sunday warm up, so we had three different instructions to the teams based on what the tire companies told us their tires were able to do. And the last one was of course after warm up on Sunday, which is a horrible time to change anything. I know I hated that whole thing, but it was forced on us.
While the MotoGP teams have packed up and finished for the year - with the exception of a couple of Open class teams, who will be testing at Jerez at the end of the month - the Moto2 and Moto3 have headed to Jerez for the first test of their 2014 season. The first test sees a host of new faces making their debuts. A gaggle of champions enter Moto2, with World Supersport champ Sam Lowes, Moto3 champion Maverick Viñales and AMA Superbike champion Josh Herrin entering the fray. In Moto3, Red Bull Rookies Cup winner Karel Hanika makes his first appearance in the world championship.
At the end of the first day, Thomas Luthi led the Moto2 class, though it was tight as ever at the front, with just over a tenth of a second covering the top three of Luthi, Jordi Torres and Mika Kallio. Sam Lowes made a very impressive debut, just four tenths off the time of Luthi. Herrin had a little more trouble adapting, ending the day 2.2 seconds slower than the fastest man of the day. Moto3 champion Viñales ended his first session under two seconds behind Luthi, but well ahead of the man he spent the year fighting the Moto3 championship with, Luis Salom, who was 3.4 seconds off the pace of Luthi.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races at Valencia:
I knew it was going to be a big day at Valencia when I found myself taking two hours to get into the circuit on Sunday morning instead of twenty minutes. After years of relatively light traffic on the back roads, I took a wrong turning and found myself on the main motorway going from Valencia to Madrid, which was packed with cars and motorcycles heading to the circuit near Cheste. The sun was shining, two titles were to be decided between five Spaniards, and that had brought the fans out in force. I was stuck in the middle of them, reminding myself once again that the best way - the only way - to visit a motorcycle race is on a motorcycle. These were big, big crowds who had come to see a show.
And what a show they got. The Moto3 race took a while to come alight, but once it did it was explosive. The first casualty was Luis Salom, the championship leader falling shortly after the halfway mark. It was his second unforced error in consecutive races, surprising given that Salom is the oldest and most experienced of the three men in the running for the Moto3 title. That left Alex Rins and Maverick Viñales, and with four laps to go, the battle started hotting up in earnest. Viñales was pushing, getting past Rins only to run wide and let the Estrella Galicia rider back through. He looked wild, off line, barely in control, and liable to crash out at any time. But he didn't, he held on, diving past Rins in the final corner to take the lead and leaving him nowhere to go. At Saturday's qualifying press conference, Rins predicted the Moto3 title would be decided in the last corner. He was right, though he had probably hoped that it would be him deciding it in his favor.
Viñales was the first deserved winner of the day, and the first title to be settled. Despite having the fewest wins of the three title contenders, the Team Calvo rider held his nerve, profited from the mistakes of Salom and Rins, and when it counted, pushed home his advantage. Before Motegi, he had given up on winning the Moto3 title, he said after the race. But when Salom and Rins crashed out, he believed it was possible. He had complained about his bike all season, that it didn't have enough power and he couldn't keep up with his two main rivals. At Valencia, his team had given him the best bike of the year, and Viñales had repaid them with a win and a title. After Viñales tantrums at the end of 2012, when he refused to race and walked out of his then team, he had looked to be more trouble than he was worth. But team manager Pablo Nieto had decided he was worth a second chance. At Valencia, Nieto's faith was repaid with interest.