Latest MotoGP News
The upcoming MotoGP round at Aragon looks like being another busy week for official announcements. Press officers representing Dorna, the FIM and the teams will have their hands full managing the stream of news expected to come in Spain.
The two most eagerly awaited announcements are the MotoGP calendar, and the Moto2 and Moto3 rider line ups, in that order. The MotoGP calendar is almost certain to feature 19 races, and look very similar to the 2014 calendar, with the addition of Brazil, and the moving of the British Grand Prix from Silverstone to Donington. As usual, the season will kick off in Qatar, the Losail circuit paying a premium for the privilege.
The Qatar race had been expected to be run on 22nd March, that date coming a week after the F1 season opener in Australia, and a week before the second F1 race of the season at Sepang. However, it looks like MotoGP will be moved back a week to the 29th, as the 22nd of March sees the two biggest clubs in Spanish soccer face off, with Real Madrid set to meet Barcelona at the Camp Nou stadium on that Sunday night. While MotoGP is massive in Spain, it is still dwarved by the interest in soccer, and TV audiences will suffer. Moving to the 29th would mean running on the same weekend as F1, but the late evening slot for the race means there would be no overlap between the races.
Nicky Hayden is to get back to action after four races away recovering from surgery. The American had an operation to remove a row of bones in his right hand after the Sachsenring round of MotoGP, to deal with a chronic problem of pain and arthritis in his wrist. That problem stemmed from an injury he picked up back in 2011 at Valencia, his wrist, and especially his scaphoid, never fully healing again afterwards. Hayden had the scaphoid and two other bones removed, to prevent them from causing further problems.
Such a drastic surgical procedure required a long recovery time, Hayden having been absent from the MotoGP paddock for over two months. But his recovery has been progressing well, with strength and motion returning. Hayden has spent a lot of time riding dirt track, to get back the feel of racing a motorcycle, and now feels fit enough to attempt to ride a MotoGP bike again. The differences between riding dirt track and a MotoGP bike are large, and will show whether Hayden's wrist is strong enough yet or not. The American's aim at the moment is just to get the feel of riding a MotoGP bike again, and test his wrist. With three races back-to-back coming up after Aragon, it is a sensible precaution to try his wrist first, with time for it to recover afterwards.
The news that KTM would be building a MotoGP machine has been public since the beginning of August. In an interview with the German website Speedweek, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer confirmed that the Austrian manufacturer would be building a V4 MotoGP machine ready for the 2017 season.
KTM's MotoGP plans were confirmed again last weekend at Misano. KTM's head of motorsport Pit Beirer told the MotoGP.com website that they would indeed be building a MotoGP bike, and that work on the machine had already started. The bike, Beirer told MotoGP.com, would be a V4, would use a steel trellis frame, just as their Moto3 machines do, and would be kitted with WP suspension. Design work on the bike was already underway, with the bike scheduled to make its debut on track "at the end of next summer," Beirer said.
There would be no prospect of an early entry, however. The bike is to be prepared for the 2017 season, with testing going on from late 2015 onwards. The bike would be designed around the Michelin tires, which will be replacing Bridgestone as the spec tire from 2016 onwards. The bike would also be designed with the spec electronics and unified software package in mind, which is also to be compulsory from the 2016 season.
This year's MotoGP's silly season has seen many badly-kept secrets, and one of the very worst of them is now out in the open. Today, the LCR Honda squad confirmed what everybody has known since July, and suspected since the beginning of June: Jack Miller is to make the leap directly from Moto3 to MotoGP, to ride the Open class Honda in the LCR team alongside Cal Crutchlow.
Miller may be riding in the LCR Honda team, but hsi contract is directly with HRC. Lucio Cecchinello has long insisted that he has had no direct involvement with the deal, Honda working hard to secure the services of Miller for the future. Miller's contract is for three years, according to GPOne.com, and the young Australian will spend the next two seasons with LCR. That would put him in the frame for the second seat in the Repsol Honda team, with both Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa out of contract at the end of 2016.
Misano was the stage for a flurry of negotiating among riders, though much of it was dependent on the fate of Scott Redding. As was previously the case with Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow, Redding was proving pivotal in which seats would be available. With Redding now firmly ensconced in the Marc VDS Racing team for the next two years, the other seats can start to fill up.
Below is a list of all of the seats currently filled and available in MotoGP, with notes on individual contracts and speculation on who could fill the empty seats. PBM has sold its grid slots to IRTA, who will be selling them to Suzuki. The IODA team have made no announcement on their future, but they seem unlikely to continue, given the dearth of funding for the project. The grid as it stands consists of 24 bikes, two more than IRTA's target of 22. All 24 will get a start, but the grid slots with the worst record at the end of 2015 will lose their IRTA travel allowance.
Here's the state of play so far:
It is no secret that Eugene Laverty is keen to move to MotoGP for the 2015 season. The Irishman has been present at the last three MotoGP rounds, touting his services around the teams in the hope of securing a ride. He has been in talks with Forward, Pramac and Aspar about a ride in 2015, but as yet, no deal has been announced.
It is certain that one has been signed, however. Today, the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team - his team in World Superbikes - issued a press release wishing Laverty well on his step up to MotoGP. No details were given of where Laverty is headed, other than that he will not be in World Superbikes in 2015, but will be racing in MotoGP.
Though no announcement was made, it seems certain that Laverty will be riding a production Honda for Aspar in 2015. A deal had to wait until Scott Redding's future had been secured, as Redding was Aspar's preferred choice, despite never having spoken to either the Gloucestershire rider or his manager. Once Redding was confirmed as riding with Marc VDS in MotoGP next season, that cleared the way for Laverty.
Alvaro Bautista has signed a two year contract with Aprilia, and will remain in the Gresini squad in MotoGP for the 2015 and 2016 season. The Spaniard had been widely expected to be one of the two riders on the factory Aprilias, given his long association with both Gresini in MotoGP and Aprilia in the 125cc and 250cc classes. Bautista won the 125cc world championship for Aprilia in 2006.
The signing of Bautista is the next domino to fall after the announcement that Marc VDS Racing would be moving up to MotoGP, and taking over the Honda RC213V from Gresini, along with Scott Redding. That, in turn, had been triggered by Gresini's announcement that they would be switching to Aprilia, and abandoning Honda. Bautista's deal was dependent on Redding, as the Englishman was Aprilia's first choice to place alongside Marco Melandri. With Redding no longer available, the path was cleared for Bautista to sign.
It would be fair to say that Sunday at Misano turned into a perfect Italian fairy story. After being forced to sit through two renditions of the Spanish national anthem after the Moto3 and Moto2 races, the Italian fans were finally able to bellow along with Il Canto degli Italiani, or the Song of the Italians, at the end of the MotoGP race. Valentino Rossi took his eighty-first victory in MotoGP in front of a crowd awash with yellow #46 banners, at the track just a few miles from his home. It was Rossi's first victory since Assen last year, and his first victory at Misano since 2009.
But the happy ending to the fairy tale was Rossi's win was no fluke, and came with no asterisk attached. There were no riders out through injury, as there were at Assen in 2013. Rossi came to Misano determined to score a good result. His team worked perfectly to give him a competitive bike, improving an already strong set up. The Italian dominated practice, qualified on the front row, and got a strong start. He then chased down his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, beat up Marc Marquez, and drew the Repsol Honda rider into making a mistake.
This was the Valentino Rossi of old, the man that many (myself included) feared had disappeared. He had not. A shoulder injury, two years on the Ducati, and then a year to adapt to the Yamaha had merely left him working out how to go fast again, and get back to winning ways. That Rossi was prepared to suffer through the Ducati years, then put in the long, hard hours of work adapting his style to the new realities of MotoGP, changing his approach, learning new skills and putting them to use on track speaks of the hunger Rossi still has for success. Valentino Rossi is unquestionably one of the most talented riders ever to have swung his leg over a motorcycle. But he owed this victory to far more than his talent. Dedication, hard work, ambition, mental toughness: these were the keys to his win at Misano.
Marc VDS Racing are to move up to MotoGP, fielding a factory Honda RC213V for Scott Redding. The deal was announced late on Sunday night via the Marc VDS Racing Twitter feed, after meetings between the team, Honda, and team owner Marc van der Straten.
The agreement means that the Marc VDS team will field a factory Honda RC213V for the next three seasons, through 2017. The duration of the contract had been a critical point in the negotiations, allowing the team to spread the costs out over a longer period, and showing HRC's support for both the team and Redding.
The move to MotoGP had been mooted after the Indianapolis GP. After Indy, rumors emerged that Gresini's title sponsor, Go&Fun, would be pulling out of their deal a year early. Without the money from Go&Fun, Gresini could not afford the factory Honda. Gresini have now officially switched to Aprilia, leaving a factory Honda and an Open class Honda going begging.
The Grand Prix Commission met at Misano to agree a couple of steps on the long road towards creating a single, unified MotoGP class from 2016. The four parties to the GPC agreed that the minimum weight in the MotoGP class would be reduced from 160kg to 158kg, and agreed to freeze development of the software for all Factory Option class bikes from 30th June 2015. From that point on, work will switch to the spec, or unified software, ready for the start of 2016.
The reduction in minimum weights has been under discussion since last year. The weights were originally raised to make it cheaper for manufacturers of CRT machines to reach the minimum weight of a MotoGP machine, with the need to resort to exotic materials. However, with the disappearance of the CRT machines at the beginning of this season, the weight became less of an issue. The Open class bikes which replaced CRTs were much closer to MotoGP prototypes, and as a consequence, were easier to keep light.
2014 Misano MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Prospect Of A Rossi Win, And Mika Kallio, The Forgotten Man
It looks like we might finally have found a Yamaha track. After Mugello, Barcelona, Assen, Brno, Silverstone, all places which were supposed to favor the Yamaha, but where a Honda won, Misano looks like it could be the place where the reign of Big Red comes to an end. Jorge Lorenzo took his first pole since Motegi last year, Valentino Rossi got on the front row for the first time since Phillip Island last year, and Marc Marquez was off the front row for the first time since Barcelona, 2013. In fact, this is the first time that a Repsol Honda has been missing from the front row of the grid since Valencia 2010. That is a very long time indeed.
Jorge Lorenzo's pole nearly didn't happen. In the first sector of the lap – the tight section through the first five corners – Lorenzo made a couple of mistakes which he feared had cost him a couple of tenths. He thought about pulling in and abandoning the lap, giving it one more shot with a fresh tire if he could change it fast enough. He rejected that idea, then went on to post what he described as an 'unbelievable lap'. His first fast lap had been trumped by Andrea Dovizioso, the Ducati man making clever use of Lorenzo's slipstream. But that first lap had made the Movistar Yamaha rider realize that he was not using the ideal lines. It helped make sure his second exit counted.
While Lorenzo aced qualifying, Valentino Rossi laid down a withering pace in FP4. Fast out of the gate, the Italian's race pace was mid 1'34s in his first run, then low 1'34s in his second. More importantly, his crew made a change to the bike after his first run, which made a big improvement, and allowed him to drop his pace. Rossi described FP4 as 'a great practice', and praised the work his team had done on the bike. "We started well, the bike was good, but we improve a lot," Rossi said.
2014 Misano MotoGP Friday Round Up: Wet Weather, A Terrible Surface, And A Raft Of Rider Announcements
For anyone on a budget, Misano is one of the cheaper MotoGP rounds to attend. Ticket prices aside, the area has a large amount of tourist accommodation, and the race takes place right at the tail end of the tourist season, when hotel prices are starting to drop. Buses run to and from the circuit from Riccione, making transport to and the track affordable. Misano is a great circuit to go to if you are trying to keep costs to a minimum.
Misano may be a cheap weekend for fans, but it certainly wasn't cheap for the teams in all three classes in MotoGP. The rain-drenched conditions on Friday saw riders crashing left, right, and center, in Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP. They racked up a grand total of 62 crashes in all three classes, in just a single day. Given that crash damage on Grand Prix machinery tends to start at a minimum of around a thousand euros, going up arithmetically with the severity of the crash and the class the bike is racing in, a conservative estimate of the grand total for repairs on the first day of practice would be enough to pay for a ride in Moto3. Or possibly even on a MotoGP Open class bike.
The cause of those 62 crashes? The water certainly didn't help. Rain fell through the night and all day, leaving the track soaked and standing water on some part of the track. But it wasn't just the water, the surface of the track itself was very poor, and rubber left on the track made braking on the racing line a treacherous affair, riders in all three classes going down as the front locked up. The fact that Bridgestone had started the MotoGP riders off on the harder of the two wet tire options didn't help either. It was an understandable choice: in previous years, when riders have used the softer wet tire, they have ended up being destroyed at Misano. But on a track with standing water to cool the wet tires, tire temperatures were never raised enough for the soft tires to start to show any significant wear. The harder front tire never really reached the temperature at which it started to offer any real grip.
It has been a busy day for announcements at Misano. After the earlier official news that Aprilia will be returning to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini, this afternoon, Avintia Racing announced they will be switching to Ducati hardware for the 2015 season and beyond.
At a press conference held in the Avintia hospitality unit, Antonio Martin, boss of both Avintia Racing and the Avintia construction company which is the team's title sponsor, and Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna announced a two-year deal, which will see Avintia field Ducati Desmosedici GP14s running Open class software in 2015, and GP15s running the spec software in 2016. Hector Barbera will be on one bike in 2015, but the second seat at Avintia is still open.
Dall'Igna told the press conference that the move was very important for Ducati, as it would give them a head start on working with the Open software, which will form the basis of the spec software to be introduced from 2016 onwards. That had been the objective with Yonny Hernandez at Pramac, but when the special exception was made for Ducati to use their own software, Hernandez was given the Ducati software to use, rather than the Open class software.
It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team.
Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory's team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team's places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia's funding will now keep them in the premier class.
No riders have been announced, but it is widely anticipated that Marco Melandri wil return from World Superbikes to race the Aprilia, where he will partner with current Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista. Gresini may also be looking to retain Scott Redding, but Redding is keen to ride the Honda RC213V stipulated in his contract. With the 2015 Aprilia being an uprated version of the ART machine currently being ridden by Danilo Petrucci, that bike is unlikely to be competitive. For 2016, Aprilia will be bringing an all-new machine, only loosely based on the current ART.
2014 Misano MotoGP Preview: On Honda At A Yamaha Track, Ducati's Test Bonus, And The Redding And Crew Chief Merry-go-round
With Marc Marquez back to winning ways at Silverstone, the Misano round of MotoGP (or to give it its full name, the Gran Premio di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini) is the next venue to host the Marquez MotoGP record demolition steamroller. At Misano, Marquez can equal Mick Doohan's record of twelve wins in a single season, clearing the way for him to break that record at a following round.
What are the odds of him actually achieving that? Misano is a circuit where he has had a great deal of success, having won in 125s and both the Moto2 races he contested here. A mistake during last year's MotoGP race meant he lost ground on the leaders, though he recovered to finish in second. Going by his past record, Marquez is once again favorite to win.
It should not be that simple, however. Misano is what we used to call a Yamaha track: Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have won five of the seven races contested here since MotoGP made a return to the circuit in 2007, after a fourteen year absence. Lorenzo has won the last three in a row at Misano, and took second when Rossi won in 2008 and 2009. This is a circuit which Lorenzo has always gone well at, and after a strong showing at Silverstone, you would expect him to be extremely motivated. "We arrive here in good shape," Lorenzo told the press conference. At Silverstone, his team had done a great job to give him a competitive package, matching tires and set up to make the bike competitive. Lorenzo was aware that his previous record at the track was no guarantee of success. "The past doesn't give you any advantage for this year, so we all start from zero," he said.