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Pity poor Jorge Lorenzo. Once again he comes to a test and tops the timesheets, and everyone is talking about someone else. This time, though, he will probably not mind, as he was not really out for glory at the test, just to work on settings before heading to the next test at Aragon on Wednesday. If it isn't rained off that is.
Lorenzo chose to skip the morning session, preferring to rest after an impressive win on Sunday, but once underway he was quickly up to speed hitting the top three after just a couple of laps, and ending the day on top. The Factory Yamaha man had been working on set up, but had also tested a new fuel tank. The new tank does not change the weight balance from the current version used by the factory riders, but it does have a slightly different shape to fit under the seat more comfortably and allow Lorenzo to position himself better on the bike.
Official confirmation of Suzuki's return to Grand Prix racing has come at last. This morning, Suzuki issued a press release announcing that they will be back in MotoGP. The bad news is that they will not return until 2015, deciding instead to spend a year developing the bike before mounting a serious challenge in the series in 2015.
As already reported, Davide Brivio is confirmed as the manager of Suzuki's team, while Randy De Puniet has been officially announced as the development rider for the bike. Nobuatsu Aoki will continue to do a lot of the donkey work in testing, in much the same role as Franco Battaini at Ducati. Both are capable riders willing to grind out the miles and test that everything is working correctly, while De Puniet, like Michele Pirro at Ducati, will try to get the bike up to race speed, to see where its weaknesses lie.
The decision to wait until 2015 makes decisions for riders a little more complex. Riders in the running for the Suzuki seat were informed last week of Suzuki's decision, giving them time to look for alternatives.
Jorge Lorenzo ran a perfect race at Barcelona. Well, not quite perfect, he told veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes that he made just a single mistake. 'Luckily nobody saw it, and you cannot see it on the data,' Lorenzo said. After a difficult qualifying session, Lorenzo put the hammer down from the start, attacking Dani Pedrosa aggressively into Turn 1 once again, just like in Mugello, and then pushing hard all race long, despite a front tire that kept threatening to let go.
So how did he do it? How did he pull off a win when most people were convinced that Pedrosa had the win in the bag? Two factors: his own mental strength, and a radical and inspired set up change during warm up, in preparation for a hot race with no grip. Wilco Zeelenberg, Lorenzo's team manager, explained to me exactly what they had done. "We created a lot less pressure on the front of the bike," the Dutchman explained. "That's not what you would normally do, but because you know you won't be able to do 1'42s all race, you know you don't need the best set up."
The extreme temperatures had caused everyone problems, and Lorenzo's crew, led by Ramon Forcada, had elected to give Lorenzo more feeling, sacrificing grip. "If you look at the lap times, they bring tears to your eyes. I mean, if Dani [Pedrosa] can qualifying in 1'40.8, and he ends up lapping at 1'43 pace, then there's something wrong. It means everybody is riding on eggshells." Lorenzo himself was uncertain of the revised set up. Lorenzo had told Zeelenberg that he wasn't sure that he was really any quicker, but he could get into the corner with a lot more confidence. "That didn't give him any advantage in terms of lap time, but it meant he knew he could go exactly this far, and no further," Zeelenberg explained.
2013 Barcelona MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Pedrosa's Scorcher, Lorenzo's Engine Travails, And Vinales' Penalty Points
Cal Crutchlow called it right on Friday. "We know the Hondas take a little bit longer to set up, but when they come out Saturday morning, they normally take a second off." It was more like half a second on Saturday morning, but by the afternoon, Dani Pedrosa took nearly 1.6 seconds off his best time on Friday, smashing the pole record which had stood since 2008. That was a lap set on the supersoft qualifying tires still used at the time, which had Nicky Hayden happily reminiscing about the fun to be had on the sticky one-lap rubber.
It was an extraordinary lap by Pedrosa, though the Honda man himself was not overly impressed. When asked if it was his best lap ever, Pedrosa acknowledged that it was good, perhaps one of his best, but still not as good as his lap at Valencia at the end of last year.
Pedrosa's blistering record lap was not the only excitement during qualifying, which turned into an intriguing session. It started off with Jorge Lorenzo taking off out of the pits in his customary fashion, only to cruise back in again after his first full lap. The clutch on his Yamaha M1 had destroyed itself, and so he had to leap back on to his second bike and try to set a time on that. That machine never felt the same as his number one bike, and so Lorenzo didn't quite have the confidence to push as hard as he hoped to. That left him third on the grid, but at least still on the front row.
The defense of Jorge Lorenzo's MotoGP championship faces a further obstacle. In addition to having to fend off an unleashed Dani Pedrosa and the rookie sensation that is Marc Marquez, the Yamaha Factory Racing rider now has to deal with a looming engine shortage as well. Just six race weekends into the 2013 MotoGP season, and the factory Yamaha riders are already using the fourth of the five engines which they have for the entire season. With two thirds of the season left to go, the Yamaha men will face a serious challenge in making their engines last until the end of the season.
The issue affects both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo in the factory teams, as well as Cal Crutchlow in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, all of whom have taken a fourth engine. Crutchlow's teammate Bradley Smith is still only on his third of five engines, though even that is not an ideal situation. Making things worse for the factory men is the fact that both Rossi and Lorenzo have had one engine withdrawn, meaning that they will not be able to use those engines for the rest of the season.
It has been a while since Valentino Rossi's name has topped the timesheets in MotoGP: once during the test at Jerez back in March, before that at a wet Silverstone almost exactly a year ago. Since that time, he's been close on occasion, but never fastest. Until today.
The Italian set out on a hot final run to set the best time of the day, and take over the top spot from his Yamaha Factory Racing teammate Jorge Lorenzo, to the delight of the assembled crowd, so many of whom wear his colors. (On a side note, I often wonder what colors will adorn the racetracks of the world once Rossi retires. Right now, you do not need a GPS to guide you to the circuit, you just follow the sea of yellow to the gates.)
Rossi was delighted, but he was also relieved, having confirmed to himself that he can still be at the front. "Today I am very happy about the result," Rossi told the press, saying that to be at the front was a great feeling. But Rossi was also realistic: it is only Friday, he pointed out to the media, and he had been fast on Friday at previous races.
Casey Stoner has quashed rumors that he could make a return to MotoGP. In an interview with the British magazine Autosport, he says he will not come back to Grand Prix racing while it continues in the direction it is heading in. "I'm closed. I'm done with it," Stoner told Autosport.
There have been persistent rumors that Stoner could come back for a couple of wildcards at the end of the season, though the Australian has denied he would be interested in coming in as a wildcard. More outlandish rumors surfaced a month ago, claiming that Stoner was close to making a shock return to Ducati, and that the Italian company's new German ownership had offered him a large sum to race again. But Stoner told Autosport that there was no truth in either of those rumors, and he had absolutely no interest in a return to MotoGP at the moment.
This is going to be a big weekend in MotoGP, perhaps one of the most significant in a long while. The outcome of Sunday's race is unlikely to be earth-shattering - the chance of the top three being entirely Spanish, and composed of two Repsol Hondas and a Factory Yamaha is pretty large - and the championship will look much the same on Sunday night as it does now. Yet this weekend will be key.
Much of the interest - and intrigue - revolves around the test on Monday. The most visible piece of the MotoGP puzzle will be in the Suzuki garage, where their brand new MotoGP machine is due to make its first real public debut. The bike has had a number of private tests, some more secretive than others, the latest being last week at Motegi with Randy de Puniet. The times that were leaked from that test were respectable, though with only test riders for competition, it is hard to put them into context.
At Barcelona, a public test, with official timing, and up against the full MotoGP field, there will be nowhere to hide. Will the Suzuki be able to match the times of the Hondas and Yamahas? Unlikely, the bike is still at an early stage of development. But it should be faster than the CRT machines, and close to the Ducati satellite bikes. De Puniet's first target will be himself, and the time he sets during practice and the race on the Aprilia CRT he rides for Aspar.
Even more intriguing at the test is what Yamaha will be bringing. Rumors abound that the seamless transmission which the factory is working on is due to be tested soon, with many believing it could get its first official run out in the hands of the factory riders at Barcelona on Monday. Raising further suspicions that something major is afoot in the Yamaha camp is the fact that they also have a test scheduled for Aragon later in the week. If the gearbox is not quite ready to be raced, then Yamaha could wait to try it at Aragon; if it is ready, trying it at two different circuits would be a good way of giving it a thorough workout. The difference between a seamless and a conventional gearbox is audible, so we should know soon enough.
Dorna took Suzuki's departure from MotoGP at the end of the 2011 season badly. After bending over backwards to accommodate the Japanese factory during their final few years in the class - giving Suzuki an exemption from the (now defunct) Rookie Rule, allowing the factory a larger engine allocation, and finally accepting the reduction from a two-rider effort to just a single entry, that of Alvaro Bautista - Suzuki finally pulled out of the series altogether, though they promised to return at a later date. Coming on top of Kawasaki's withdrawal ahead of the 2009 season, Suzuki were the second Japanese factory to depart the class after a string of broken promises.
So unsurprisingly, when Suzuki opened talks about a return to MotoGP, Dorna was hesitant. Their entry was to be subject to a number of restrictions; Suzuki would be made to pay penance for their initial abandoning of the series. Initially Suzuki were told that they would only be allowed to enter through an existing team, rather than creating their own infrastructure. The idea behind this was that none of the teams who had remained in the series should lose out just because Suzuki wanted to return. When it became clear that the teams which were candidates to aid Suzuki were not really up to supporting a full factory effort, that idea was quietly dropped.
The troubled waters through which Cal Crutchlow has found himself sailing with Yamaha have been calmed a little. The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider and his manager Bob Moore held their first face-to-face meeting with Yamaha bosses Lin Jarvis and Masahiko Nakajima on the Sunday night after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, to discuss the options for extending their relationship for next year.
Also present at the meeting was Monster Tech 3 Yamaha boss Hervé Poncharal, who has been very vocal in his desire to retain the British rider. Crutchlow's results have been a real boon for the French team, and his outspoken and impish personality have helped attract a large amount of media attention. Poncharal has been mediating between Yamaha and Crutchlow, and is trying to secure an extension of Crutchlow's contract with the team for 2014.
Max Biaggi's brief return to MotoGP is over. After two days of testing Ducati's MotoGP bike at Mugello, filling in for the injured Ben Spies, Biaggi returns to his day job, as TV commentator for the Italian coverage of World Superbikes.
Two short days were not really enough time for Biaggi to get back to grips with a MotoGP bike, especially given that testing stopped early on both days after rain started to fall in the afternoon. Biaggi faced two problems, returning to riding at speed for the first time in eight months, and returning to a MotoGP bike for the first time in over seven years. Given those difficulties, the times he set in the end were respectable. According to GPOne.com, who had reporter Luca Semprini on location, Biaggi's best time was a lap of 1'52.1, which would have seen him qualify in 23rd position for last Sunday's MotoGP race, just ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama on the FTR Kawasaki CRT machine.
2013 Mugello Moto2 And Moto3 Round Up: Redding Stokes Up A War of Words, And Why KTM Is Killing It In Moto3
In many ways, the Moto2 race at Mugello resembled the MotoGP race. One rider seized the initiative, sized up the competition, and when he saw that they were no match for him, pressed home his advantage. While Scott Redding's victory at Mugello was not quite as dominant as Jorge Lorenzo's in MotoGP - after watching it again at leisure, it is clear just how totally Lorenzo controlled every aspect of that race, from his tough pass on Dani Pedrosa in the first corner to the devastating pace increase he forced when he sensed the Repsol Honda man weaken - it is still one of the most commanding Moto2 wins for some time.
Redding did not quite lead from the start, but he disposed of Takaaki Nakagami without too much difficulty. He then pulled a gap, with only Nico Terol and Johann Zarco able to follow his pace. Terol passed Redding just before the halfway mark, exploiting the slipstream provided by the oversized Englishman, but that was all Terol could do. Redding was puzzled when Terol failed to pull a gap after passing. "I couldn't understand how he caught me, because when he passed me, I was expecting to be fighting to hold on to him, but I was really comfortable behind," Redding said afterwards. He got past four laps later, and turned up the pressure, and while Terol and Zarco could hang on along the front straight, once Redding broke the slipstream he was gone. It was the first back-to-back victory by a British rider in 42 years.
Max Biaggi is back on a MotoGP machine, for the first time since he lost his ride at the end of the 2005 season. The reigning World Superbike champion took to the track at Mugello today to test Ben Spies' Pramac Ducati, and get a feel for a MotoGP machine again. Biaggi was invited to ride the bike by Ducati, mainly just as a friendly gesture towards an old rider, but in part also to give his input on riding the bike. With Spies still absent recovering from his shoulder injury, putting Biaggi on the bike was an interesting prospect. Because of Biaggi's Italian connections, he rode Spies bike, but with bodywork from Iannone's Energy.TI bike.
In a series of posts on his Twitter feed, Biaggi took some time getting up to speed on the machine. An enormous amount has changed since Biaggi last rode a V5 990cc Honda RC211V back in 2005, all of which take a lot of getting used to. The spec Bridgestone tires and the amount of electronic rider aids are two of the biggest changes, though the electronics on the factory Aprilia RSV4 WSBK machine are already highly sophisticated. The tires, though, are totally different to what Biaggi was used to, Bridgestone having made huge steps forward in grip, durability and stiffness in the intervening period, the tires offering much more performance than the Michelins Biaggi used in the past, but also being less compliant. The difference in performance between 2005 and 2013 is huge: Dani Pedrosa's pole record (1'47.157) is over two seconds faster now than the record (1'49.223) set by Valentino Rossi eight years ago, and Marc Marquez' race lap record (1'47.639) is two and a half seconds quicker than Max Biaggi's from 2005 (1'50.117). According to GPOne.com, one of the biggest challenges Biaggi faced was getting used to carbon disk brakes once again, having raced using steel disks during his time in World Superbikes.
Max Biaggi is to make a surprise return to riding a MotoGP machine. The former 250 and World Superbike champion will take a seat on Ben Spies' Ignite Pramac Ducati as part of a one-day test at Mugello, as part of Ducati's testing program, according to Italian site GPOne.com.
Spies was scheduled to stay on at Mugello to take part in a two-day test, but after the first day of practice at last weekend's Italian Grand Prix, it was clear to both Spies and Ducati that his shoulder was still too weak to ride a MotoGP machine. With work continuing on the Desmosedici, it was important for Ducati to get as much data as possible on their bike, and so Biaggi was offered the chance to ride the machine.