One of the things I enjoy most about running the MotoMatters.com website is the ability to communicate and interact directly with fans. Here, and as @motomatters on Twitter (and even one day on Facebook, once I get the page sorted out properly), I derive a lot of pleasure from hearing your questions and answering them to the best of my ability.
Of course, the problem with Twitter is that space to give an answer is severely limited, to just 140 characters. That doesn't leave much space to give as full an answer as the questions usually deserve. Similarly, when responding to comments on the website, I often don't have the time to spend giving the answer the full attention it deserves, as most of the questions and comments come during a race weekend.
2014 Valencia Moto2 And Moto3 Post-Season Test: Rabat Rules Moto2, Rins Impresses, Antonelli On Top Of Moto3
Tito Rabat continued his rule of the Moto2 class at Valencia by ending the final day of testing on top of the timesheets and under the pole record at the Spanish circuit. The newly-crowned 2014 champion spent all day working on set up of the 2015 Kalex machine he will be riding for the Marc VDS team next season. Rabat finished just ahead of Johann Zarco, the Frenchman adapting quickly to the Kalex frame in the new Ajo Motosport team. Jonas Folger was close behind, starting his second year with the AGR team.
Alex Rins once again won the battle of the rookies, this time by a clear margin. The HP Pons rider adapted quickly, posting an impressive eighth-fastest time, just two thirds of a second off the time of Rabat. Alex Marquez had a rougher time, crashing twice without any injury, other than to his confidence. The reigning Moto3 champion ended the day in twelfth, just over a second behind his Marc VDS teammate Rabat.
Though testing for the MotoGP class has finished, motorcycle racers in other series still have plenty of work ahead of them. Both the World Superbike series and the Grand Prix support classes have been hard at work, ahead of a busy schedule of testing. The Ducati and Kawasaki World Superbike teams have been testing at the Motorland Aragon circuit, while Moto2 and Moto3 are back at Valencia.
At Aragon, Jonathan Rea made his long-awaited debut on the Kawasaki ZX-10R, alongside 2013 World Champion and fierce rival Tom Sykes. With the World Superbike teams adapting to the new regulations, the two Kawasakis were a little slower than the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies. The day started off soaking, with journalists and test riders doing media laps on the 2014 bikes of Tom Sykes and David Salom. Once the track dried out in the afternoon, Kawasaki also joined the action. At the end of the day, both Ducati riders clocked up unofficial times of 1'51.3, while Sykes posted a 1'52.2 and Rea a 1'52.7. As an interesting note, they are running the track in its MotoGP configuration, using the long, sweeping double left hander as the final corner, rather than the longer version used by WSBK when the series races there, featuring the hairpin and then right and left combination leading back on to the front straight. Giugliano's best time is three seconds slower than the best time set by Andrea Dovizioso on the first day of practice for the MotoGP race at the circuit.
The Grand Prix Commission meeting at Valencia tied up a number of loose ends in the 2015 regulations, most to do with safety, some to do with basic practicalities of racing.
The most significant changes are to the rule for jump starts and for exceeding track limits. Currently, the penalty for exceeding the track limit is a mandatory loss of position, but the races at Misano showed the impracticality of such a rule. Jonas Folger ran straight on at Turn 1, and had to drop back several seconds into the middle of a group battling for position. Race Direction now has the option of imposing other penalties based on their perception of advantage gained. The decision will allow the imposition of a time penalty, or any other penalty they wish.
The jump start procedure has also been changed, allowing a ride to move before the lights are out, and then stop again, and Race Direction once again decide whether they gained an advantage or not.
One change improving safety is forcing riders to wear helmets while riding the track on scooters. Given the speed which some riders reach on their familiarization laps, it is a much needed rule change. To save costs, riders will now also be allowed to rent dirt bikes or other machinery to use to get to know the track, rather than being forced to ship scooters around the world in team containers.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races at Valencia:
2014 Valencia Sunday Round Up: Of Dodgy MotoGP Weather, Fuel Issues in Moto2, and Miller vs Marquez in Moto3
It was a fitting finale to one of the best season in years. The arrival of Marc Marquez in MotoGP has given the series in a boost in the arm. Not just in the premier class, the influence of Marquez reaches into Moto2 and Moto3 as well. Tito Rabat's move to the Marc VDS team completed his transformation from a fast rider to a champion, but the schooling and support he received from the Marquez brothers at their dirt track oval in Rufea made him even stronger. And Marc's younger brother Alex brought both talent and Maturity to Moto3.
It made for great racing at Valencia. The Moto3 race featured the typical mayhem, but with extra edge because there was a title on the line. Tito Rabat tried to win the Moto2 race from the front, as he has done all year, but found himself up against an unrelenting Thomas Luthi. And in MotoGP, Marc Marquez set a new record of thirteen race wins in a single season, despite being throw a curve ball by the weather.
Marquez was the first to downplay his taking the record of most wins in a season from Mick Doohan. "Doohan won more than me," Marquez said. "He won twelve from fifteen races. Thirteen is a new record, but not so important." Though it is admirable that Marquez can put his own achievement into perspective when comparing it to Doohan's, that is not the full context. Doohan actually twelve of the first thirteen races in 1997, making his win rate even bigger. Then again, Doohan had to beat Tady Okada, Nobu Aoki and Alex Criville, while Marquez has had to fend off Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.
Even Doohan's win rate pales in comparison with those of John Surtees and Giacomo Agostini, who both had perfect seasons in 1959 and 1968 respectively. But the 1959 season had only seven races, and the 1968 ten races, a good deal less than the current total of eighteen.
Full recap and results below.
It has been four-and-a-half years, or 87 races between Valentino Rossi's 49th pole position and his 50th. The last time Rossi started a race from the first spot on the grid was at Le Mans in 2010, where he just pipped his teammate Jorge Lorenzo into second by 0.054 seconds. At Valencia on Saturday, he was two tenths faster than Lorenzo, but this time, he had Andrea Iannone and Dani Pedrosa between him and his teammate.
There were plenty of parallels to the 2010 season visible at Valencia. Just as five seasons ago, Rossi is engaged in a struggle with Lorenzo for supremacy in the championship. Back in 2010, it was just the third race of the season, and a fierce battle was emerging as Jorge Lorenzo started to gain the upper hand in the team, and in the championship. Now, the fight is over second in the championship, rather than first, but it has grown increasingly intense over the past few weeks. Signs of tension have been starting to emerge in the last couple of races, but they became a little more public after qualifying at Valencia.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Valencia:
MotoGP looks set to head to Austria from 2016. Today, Red Bull co-founder Dieter Mateschitz and Dorna reached an agreement to host an Austrian round of the series at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. The agreement is merely preliminary, and subject to the track gaining FIM homologating the track and granting it a license to stage a MotoGP race.
The Red Bull Ring - previously known as the A1 Ring, before being bought by Mateschitz - has been upgraded and this year hosted both a round of Formula 1 and a round of the Red Bull Air Race. It was also the scene of the last Austrian Grand Prix, held back in 1997. The race was dropped after that year due to poor spectator attendance.
Now, with increased visibility of the series, and especially increased involvement by Red Bull in MotoGP, stepping up sponsorship, the prospect is more attractive for both the organizers and Dorna. The inclusion of Austria from 2016 makes it almost certain that at least one Spanish round, and possibly Misano, could be dropped from the MotoGP schedule. Thailand looks a firm favorite to also host a round of MotoGP in 2016, and talks are continuing with Chile as well.
Full Recap and Results Below.