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.
2013 MotoGP season review (Part 1)
This is going to sound corny as hell – I believe the biggest winners of the 2013 MotoGP World Championship were the fans. MotoGP had had a dark few years of tedious racing, working itself into a technical tangle, just like Formula 1.
A combination of engineering changes and 250-derived riding styles had developed beautifully balanced bikes, which, when ridden by inch-perfect ex-250 riders, could do the same lap times from lights-out to chequered flag. Valentino Rossi’s former crew chief Jeremy Burgess referred to these races as “procession races”, and he was right (as he usually is).
The biggest change in 2013
With the racing season done, Bridgestone issued a press release looking back over the 2013 MotoGP season with Bridgestone's Motorsport Manager Hiroshi Yamada. The review covers the high points and the low points of 2013, with Yamada praising the depth of talent in the series and hailing the arrival of Marc Marquez in the premier class. Yamada also briefly reviews the events at Phillip Island, where Bridgestone totally misjudged the state of the newly resurfaced track. There is also some news of the 2014 season, with Bridgestone still evaluating the soft tire options for the new Open class MotoGP machines. The arrival of more powerful bikes such as the Honda RCV1000R and the Yamaha FTR make producing a soft tire for the bikes a more complicated endeavor. The press release appears below:
Hiroshi Yamada looks back over the 2013 MotoGP™ season
After one of the most exciting MotoGP™ campaigns in recent years, Bridgestone Motorsport Manager Hiroshi Yamada looks back on the highlights from this year, and gives a brief glimpse of the world’s largest tyre manufacturer’s approach to the 2014 season.
Yamada-san, how would you summarise the 2013 MotoGP season?
“Overall, I think this season has been fantastic – one of the best ever for the series. All the riders were performing at a very high level and to witness Marc break record after record and Jorge defend his title with so much passion, I think it brought many new fans to MotoGP. Personally, I was very happy to see that despite our focus on producing safer, more user-friendly tyres, eleven Circuit Best Laps and ten Circuit Record Laps were set this year, showing the performance potential of our BATTLAX tyres.
“Also, to start the year with 24 riders – the largest grid since Bridgestone started in MotoGP – shows how the series continues to grow and when I heard that the overall attendance figure this year was the highest ever, it reaffirmed to me that the 2013 season was one of the best ever.”
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.
Marc Marquez has been back briefly to the operating theater today, where he has undergone surgery to improve his breathing. The reigning world champion was admitted to the Dexeus hospital in Barcelona, where he had an operation to correct a deviated septum, which had hampered his breathing through his nose. Marquez is one of a few riders who uses the nasal plaster strips to keep the nostrils open (see photo below). These strips are said to aid breathing through the nose, and with Marquez suffering a deviated septum, he may have had some benefit from the strips.
The septum is the mixture of cartilage and bone which separates the two nostrils, and if the septum becomes enlarged - a common occurrence after injury - then breathing through the nose can be more difficult. The surgery Marquez underwent is aimed at making the nasal cavity larger, and removing any obstructions, to help him breath more easily. Marquez will have to take a week of rest, before returning to the busy schedule of a world champion, which has included trips to Japan and Monaco. The press release from the Repsol Honda team appears below.
Valentino Rossi has acknowledged he is one step closer to retirement. In an interview to be broadcast Italian TV channel Mediaset, the Italian said that the early tests and the first six races of 2014 would be crucial to the future of his career. 'In 2014 I need to be at the front, closer to the first three', Rossi said, referring to the Spanish trio of Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, who dominated the 2013 MotoGP season. He has not lost his appetite for racing, Rossi told Italian TV, but he was not content just to circulate. 'I would like to continue for another couple of years, but only if I'm competitive.'
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.
Interviewed At The Sachsenring: Jeremy Burgess Speaks About Ducati, And Rossi's Return To The Yamaha
Following Valentino Rossi's shocking decision to part ways with his long-term crew chief Jeremy Burgess, there has been much speculation about Rossi's reason for the split. Mick Fialkowski spoke to the experienced Australian earlier this year at the Sachsenring, where Burgess shed some light on the last few seasons of their cooperation. Burgess told Fialkowski about their time at Ducati, the return to Yamaha, and where Rossi has struggled this season. With the benefit of hindsight, this interview makes for a highly illuminating read.
Mick Fialkowski: Jeremy, what went wrong at Ducati when you were there for two years with Valentino between 2011 and 2012?
Jeremy Burgess: I think you probably have to ask that to Ducati, because we tried very hard to get them to work in a way that we had been using for many years but unfortunately it was a mentality of Ducati which even Valentino wasn't able to change. As much as we tried and as you can see this year, the situation doesn't seem to have improved significantly at all. I think there have to be some really big changes in the way Ducati believes that they should go about their MotoGP racing.
Q: What do they need to change?
JB: The people at the circuit are very good. These projects are not lost by the people working at this level. The people in each garage here work to the level of the equipment and the funding that they have. If there is somebody in the higher position that is blocking the development or not believing what the riders are saying and believes that their design is OK, then this is when it suffers at the race track. Ducati regularly tests in Mugello, they compete in MotoGP and see the results every week. It's really in the hands of the directors of the engineering group to put the right people in place back in Ducati.
Q: After years with Honda and Yamaha, were there any significant differences between working with a Japanese and an Italian factory?
JB: Very much so. The Japanese factory listens to what we say and responds to our requests. Ducati, whether they've listened, they've heard, for sure, but they didn't respond. They believed for some reason that what they've had was good enough and that in some miraculous way everything would be OK next week. And then it wasn't and of course you start to lose the bond between the engineers and the rider to work together to improve the machine. Fundamentally Ducati needs to regroup, go back, try and build again and perhaps hire the very best rider, change their structure and their strategy somewhat.
Q: What were your first thoughts when Vale told you that you're going back to Yamaha for 2013?
Though most of the contracts were settled some time ago, there were still a few question marks on the 2014 MotoGP grid. The official entry list released by the FIM today answers some of those questions, but the answers it gives may yet turn out to be wrong. The list features 11 entries to be run under the Factory rules, which means 20 liters of fuel, 5 engines per season and the freedom to use proprietary software on the spec Magneti Marelli ECU. The remaining 13 bikes will be run as Open entries, which gives them 24 liters of fuel and 12 engines per season, but forces them to use the Dorna-controlled spec software on the Magneti Marelli ECU.
The 2014 season looks set to follow the pattern established in 2013, with Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo likely to dominate. Of interest is the fact that Marc Marquez has been entered with number 93, rather than the number 1 which the world champion is allowed to use, but this may yet change before the start of the season. Marquez would dearly like to retain 93, but Honda is keen to see him run the number 1 plate.
After the test at Valencia, Marc Marquez was asked by journalists what he was going to do over the winter. His answer came back quick as a flash: 'First I will do a lot of interviews.' Marquez was all too keenly aware of the media exposure his championship would bring.
He had already done his first big interview, speaking to journalists last Tuesday in a teleconference organized by the ever-industrious Indianapolis Motor Speedway press office. In the interview, Marquez talks about winning the championship at the first attempt, aggressive riding by himself and by Jorge Lorenzo, what Honda needs to do to improve the 2014 bike, and the mental strength he learned after the eye injury he suffered at Sepang in 2011.
The transcript of the press conference appears below:
2013 RED BULL INDIANAPOLIS GP TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
2013 MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez, Nov. 12, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to the Red Bull Indianapolis GP teleconference. We are very grateful and privileged today to have the new Moto GP World Champion, Marc Marquez, of the Repsol Honda Team. Marc won the title by finishing third Sunday at the Grand Prix of Valencia, edging Jorge Lorenzo by four points. I could spend the next 15 minutes reading off a list of Marc's accomplishments, but I'll try to keep it brief.
A little bit of background. Marc is 20 years old. He's from Spain. He's the youngest premier class World Champion in history. He's the first rookie to win the premier class world title since American legend Kenny Roberts in 1978. Marc won six races this season, a rookie record. One of those wins came in August at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP at IMS, and he finished on the podium in 16 of his 18 starts this year. Marc has won three world championships in the last four seasons. He's won the 125cc title in 2010, the Moto2 title in 2012 and the MotoGP World Championship in 2013. Oh, by the way, he also led testing today. His 2014 season is already underway. He led test today at Valencia.
With the MotoGP season now officially ended, riders are taking the opportunity to have various medical niggles sorted out ready for 2014. Last week, Dani Pedrosa had the metal plate removed from his right collarbone, and on Sunday, Nicky Hayden had a screw removed from his right wrist.
Pedrosa's surgery brings to a close a painful chapter in his life. The plate which has just been removed was inserted on his right collarbone after his clash with Marco Simoncelli at Le Mans in 2011. Pedrosa was reluctant to have surgery on his his right collarbone, as he was only just starting to recover from surgery on his left collarbone, which he had injured at Motegi in 2010. The operation to fix that injury had seen screws compress the artery leading down to his left arm, causing a loss of feeling during racing. The clash with Simoncelli took place just weeks after an operation to resolve the Thoracic Outlet Syndrome which had resulted from the previous injury.
With the plate in his right collarbone removed, Pedrosa will need two weeks of rest before starting physical rehabilitation. The recovery period should give his collarbone time to heal, and for bone growth to fill in the holes left by the screws, restoring his collarbone to full strength.
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.
Race Director Mike Webb Interview, Part 1: On Penalty Points, Precedent, Jerez, Sepang And Whether Motorcycle Racing Is A Contact Sport
It has been a busy year for MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb. Since taking on the job of ensuring that MotoGP events take place safely and efficiently, stepping into the shoes vacated by Paul Butler at the start of the 2012 season, Webb has faced some tough decisions and unusual situations, his second year in the job even more eventful than the first.
In response to criticism over the warning system in 2012, a new penalty points system was introduced to allow for harsher penalties for persistent offenders. There were several high-profile incidents involving Marc Marquez in his rookie season, including a clash with Jorge Lorenzo at Jerez, a touch which severed the traction control sensor of teammate Dani Pedrosa's Honda and caused Pedrosa to crash, and the situation at Phillip Island, where the new asphalt at the circuit caused the tires to degrade much more than the two spec tire manufacturers had expected, requiring last-minute adjustments to the race schedule on the fly.
We spoke with Mike Webb extensively at Valencia, on the Thursday evening before the race, covering the above subjects and more, and reviewing his second year as Race Director. In the first part of the interview, Webb talks of whether motorcycle racing is a contact sport, how the penalty system has worked out, explains why Marc Marquez was not given points at Jerez, why Jorge Lorenzo wasn't penalized for the touch at Sepang, and of changing perceptions.
Q: You're at the end of your second year in the job of Race Director. Was it easier than the first?