Full Recap and Results Below.
2014 Phillip Island Saturday Round Up: The Rufea Team's Front Row Sweep, Winning Attitude, And The Secret Of Riding The Ducati
The three men on pole for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix have a lot in common. One is already champion in MotoGP, another could become champion on Sunday, the other looks to have taken control of the Moto3 title chase in the past few races. The MotoGP and Moto3 pole sitters are brothers, and the man on pole for Moto2 is a good friend of the brothers. Most importantly, perhaps, all three train together.
The "Rufea Team", as they are known to the Spanish media and among themselves, spend long days pushing each other hard at the dirt track oval in Rufea, a small parish outside of Lleida in Spain. Moto2 championship leader Tito Rabat doesn't spend as much time there as the Marquez brothers Marc and Alex, as he is mainly based in Almeria, where he spends his days whittling away the circuit record. But when he does go, the three go all out for glory, even though they are only racing among themselves, and in front of a couple of friends, and maybe the Marquez brothers' father Julià.
Is it coincidence that the trio should find themselves leading their respective championships? Marc Marquez has already proved his talent, by wrapping up four world championships, including three in a row. Tito Rabat has grown enormously as a rider after switching to the Marc VDS Racing team, and stepping out of the shadow of Pol Espargaro at Pons. Alex Marquez already proved himself in the Spanish championship, got up to speed in Moto3 last year, and is proving to be the steadiest of the Moto3 riders.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Phillip Island:
Full Recap and Results below.
Efren Vazquez has topped the final session of free practice for the Moto3 class, making handy use of a tow in the final few minutes to set the fastest time. Danny Kent got very close to the time of the Spaniard, but could not quite beat Vazquez, sitting in 2nd spot, just ahead of Alex Rins. Alex Marquez set the 4th fastest time, precisely one tenth of a second behind his Estrella Galicia teammate.
There was a surfeit of riders looking for tows, some making very good use of them. The CIP riders Alessandro Tonucci and Jasper Iwema benefited most, ending the session in 8th and 10th. But the tows penalized Jack Miller, the Australian ending the session in 12th, though he spent most of the session leading rather than following.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Phillip Island:
Jack Miller left it late to top the second Moto3 free practice session at Phillip Island in Australia, riding in front of his patriotic home crowd Miller struggled for pace in the first half of the session but jumped to the top of the time sheets with his final flying lap; a time of 1:37.033. Miller's former team mate Efren Vazquez posted the second quickest time finishing ahead of his countryman and the ever-improving Juanfran Guevara while Brad Binder took fourth place aboard his Mahindra, the top four finished less than a tenth of a second behind Miller.
The morning's pace-setter Danny Kent had to settle for fifth place ahead of Alex Rins and Isaac Vinales. Niklas Ajo took his Husqvarna to eighth place from Enea Bastianini and Championship Leader Alex Marquez rounded out the top ten. Both John McPhee and Matteo Ferrari had big crashes at the final corner and had to be taken to the medical centre for examinations, thankfully they were later cleared of any serious injury.
Danny Kent has topped the opening Moto3 free practice session at Phillip Island, despite a minor crash the Briton finished two tenths clear of the field. A light breeze, mild temperatures and warm sunshine meant for perfect early morning conditions and resulted in Kent's benchmark time of 1:36.906 being a tenth inside Alex Marquez' race lap record from last year. Championship leader Marquez was looking quick out of the box but had to settle for second place ahead of Jakub Kornfeil and Niklas Ajo while Alex Rins rounded out the top five.
Local hope and Championship challenger Jack Miller found his feet late in the session after struggling in the early running, he eventually took sixth place ahead of Malaysian rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin. Jasper Iwema took an impressive eighth spot having recently rejoined the Moto3 class as a permanent rider, he finished ahead of Romano Fenati and Juanfran Guevara who completed the top ten.
The Grand Prix Circus has barely had a chance to catch its breath after Motegi before the next round starts in Australia. With a few exceptions, perhaps, a number of teams being forced to either take a much longer route to Australia to avoid the landfall of typhoon Vongfong, or else severely delayed until the worst passed. Still, to call spending even more hours on a plane or at an airport for what is already a very long flight can hardly be regarded as a spot of rest and relaxation.
Still, they have now all gathered at what is almost unanimously regarded as the best racetrack on the planet. Phillip Island is everything a motorsports circuit is suppose to be: fast, flowing, and deeply challenging. There are plenty of spots for a rider to attempt a pass, or try to make up time, but every single one of them requires either exceptional bravery, or the willingness to take a risk. The many brutally fast corners which litter the track separate the men from the boys: Doohan Corner at turn 1, where you arrive at a staggering 340 km/h, turn 3, now dubbed Stoner corner for the way the retired Australian champion would slide both ends through it at over 250 km/h, the approach to Lukey Heights, which drops away to MG, or the final two turns culminating in Swan Corner, speed building throughout before being launched onto the Gardner Straight, and off towards Doohan again. At Phillip Island, there is no place to hide.
After the fiasco of 2013, when both Dunlop and Bridgestone brought tires which would not last the full distance of the race on the resurfaced track. The new surface was two seconds quicker than the old one, putting a lot more heat into the tires than expected. A tire test in March means that the two tire manufacturers now have tires which will last in both Moto2 and MotoGP, meaning that fans can at least be sure of getting their money's worth.
An abbreviated collection of Moto2 and Moto3 preview press releases from the teams, caused by the major travel challenges between Motegi and Phillip Island:
Marc Marquez had come to Motegi to give Honda the world championship at their home circuit for the first time ever. The Movistar Yamaha team had come to Japan to score a win in front of their home fans, and factory bosses. In the end, the Battle of the Bosses can be declared a draw: Jorge Lorenzo was just about unstoppable on his way to victory, winning in front of Yamaha's top brass. And Marc Marquez nudged his way past Valentino Rossi to take second, finishing ahead of the two men who could prevent him from wrapping up the 2014 MotoGP title. Marquez brought Honda a championship at the circuit they own, in front of the company's CEO, Takanobu Ito. Both Lorenzo and Marquez came to Motegi with a job to do, and they both got the job done.
The win capped a weekend of near perfection at Motegi for Jorge Lorenzo. Qualifying had been the only minor bump on the road to victory, the Movistar Yamaha man forced to start from the second row. He made up for that with raw aggression off the line, sitting Marc Marquez up into the first corner, then picking of the men ahead of him until he sat on the tail of his teammate, Valentino Rossi. Rossi had capitalized on his front row start, leading off the line and into the first corner, shuffling pole sitter Andrea Dovizioso back to second, Lorenzo demoting the Ducati man to third the next corner.
Rossi pushed hard from the off, and Lorenzo was happy to sit quietly on his tail and follow. But once Marc Marquez had gathered his composure again, passed Andrea Iannone, and closed down Andrea Dovizioso, Lorenzo decided he could wait no longer. A hard but clean pass on Rossi at the end of the back straight put Lorenzo in the lead, and though Rossi thought about attacking straight back, he found himself off line and with Dovizioso ready to pounce behind him.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races at Motegi: