Latest MotoGP News
Riders and managers will be very busy this weekend at Brno, as negotiations continue for the open slots left on the 2015 MotoGP grid. The deals that saw Stefan Bradl leave LCR Honda for Forward Yamaha and Cal Crutchlow depart Ducati and head for LCR Honda have kicked negotiations for the remaining seats into overdrive. Forward Yamaha still has one seat open, with Aleix Espargaro set to join Maverick Viñales at Suzuki, a deal due to be announced in September. There are two Open class Hondas available, at Gresini and Aspar, with Scott Redding moving up to take the factory RC213V, and Hiroshi Aoyama set to lose his seat. Pramac Ducati has one seat available, now that Andrea Iannone has moved up to take Crutchlow's place in the factory Ducati team. And Aprilia will have two seats to fill when they reenter the class in 2015.
The PBM Team is set to leave MotoGP at the end of the 2014 season, and return to the British Superbike championship. Owner of the eponymous team Paul Bird has decided to expand his presence in BSB to add a second team, and withdraw from MotoGP altogether.
Bird spoke to both the British publication MCN and the German-language website Speedweek about his reasons for switching to BSB. Most of the backing for the PBM team comes from British sponsors, such as Rapid Solicitors. Bird told MCN that their sponsors would rather see PBM in BSB, as a British team with British sponsors. But Bird also mentioned to Speedweek the difficulties of competing in MotoGP as a private team. Those problems had been there in 2012, when PBM first joined MotoGP, but the situation is worse now. Without factory backing, it was impossible to be competitive, he said.
After the news that Colin Edwards would be taking early retirement comes news of his successor. As had been widely trailed, Alex De Angelis is to take Edwards' spot in the NGM Forward Racing team for the remainder of 2014, while Edwards will return to do a wildcard at Silverstone at least. De Angelis has been racing for the Tasca Racing team in Moto2 this season, his place will be taken by the Italian rider Riccardo Russo.
De Angelis will concentrate on riding the Forward Racing chassis, rather than the Yamaha chassis, while Colin Edwards will continue to work in an advisory role. De Angelis has previous experience, both in MotoGP and with Bridgestone tires, having spent two full seasons in the class in 2008 and 2009 with Gresini Honda, as well as replacing the injured Hiroshi Aoyama in 2010, and Ben Spies at Pramac Ducati for the Laguna Seca round of MotoGP. No doubt his experience in the class and with the tires played a role in Forward's choice.
Below is the press release issued by Forward racing making the announcement:
NGM Forward Racing and Alex De Angelis together in the second part of the 2014 season
The NGM Forward Racing Team announces that Alex De Angelis will race alongside Aleix Espargaro starting from the GP of Czech Republic on board of a Forward Yamaha.
Marc Marquez winning ten races in a row is starting to cause a problem for us here at MotoMatters.com. You see, we have a strict no-spoilers policy on the front page, meaning that we do our very best to write headlines for race and practice results which do not reveal the the winner. That can sometimes result in rather convoluted headlines, trying to convey the sense of the race without giving away who won it.
This is where Marquez is causing us headaches. After winning his tenth race in a row, and all of the races this season, we are starting to wonder whether announcing a Marquez win is actually a spoiler any more. The deeper Marquez gets into record territory – and he is in very deep indeed, matching Giacomo Agostini for winning the first ten races of the season, and Mick Doohan for winning ten in a row, and Doohan, Valentino Rossi, Agostini and Casey Stoner for winning ten or more in one season – the harder it gets to write headlines. It is hard to sum up the story of a race, when the story is all about Marquez and the record books.
So how did Marc Marquez make it ten in a row? It certainly didn't look as easy as some of the other races he has won this year. A poor start left him behind Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso, and battling with Jorge Lorenzo. With track temperatures warmer than they had been all weekend, Marquez found the feeling with the front end not as good as during practice. After a couple of scares, he decided to take his time in the early laps, and follow Rossi around. On lap 11, an unmissable opportunity presented itself. Rossi led into the first corner, with Lorenzo diving up the inside of Marquez to take second. Marquez decided to strike back, and seeing Rossi run just a fraction wide on the entry to Turn 2, stuffed his bike up the inside of the Italian. The gap Rossi had left was big enough for Lorenzo as well, who then tried to hold the inside through Turn 3. That left him on the outside of Marquez for the left hander at Turn 4, and Marquez was gone.
2014 Indianapolis MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Fast Brits On Proddy Hondas, An Early Title For Marquez, And An Epic Moto3 Race
Is Indianapolis really a Honda circuit? With four Yamahas on the two front rows of the grid, you would have to say it wasn't any longer. There is a Honda on pole, but as that's Marc Marquez, that doesn't really count: alongside his perfect nine wins from nine races, he now also has eight poles from ten qualifying sessions. Any discussion of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the different manufacturers at a circuit really needs to disregard Marquez at the moment. In 2014, the Spaniard is just too much of an outlier, as his ability to put a couple of tenths or more on the opposition at will demonstrates.
Behind Marquez, the grid looks a lot more interesting. Behind Marquez is exactly how Andrea Dovizioso bagged another front row start, the Italian grabbing a tow off the Repsol Honda rider to set the second fastest time. The tow had allowed Dovizioso to follow Marquez' "crazy lines" as the Ducati rider put it, and the extra boost of the new engine Dovizioso has at his disposal may have contributed. The engine comes with a new fairing with revised cooling, suggesting the changes are more to do with making the engine more reliable at the top end, allowing it to be revved higher for longer. Given the Desmosedici's propensity for going up in a puff of smoke – Dovizioso has already lost three of his twelve engines this year, Andrea Iannone has got through four – reduced friction and reduced temperature would be a boon.
Jorge Lorenzo is the last man on the front row of the grid, but he was not disappointed with that. It was important for the Spaniard to build his confidence at Indy, and qualifying definitely helped. Lorenzo remarked that he was closer to Marquez than at the previous race, and that's not just true of qualifying. Lorenzo's race pace is strong too, though still a way off that of Marquez. In FP4, Marquez was running mid 1'32s consistently, while Lorenzo was hitting low 1'33s.
2014 Indianapolis MotoGP Friday Round Up: An Improved Track, The State Of American Racing, And Yet More Silly Season Shenanigans
For the past four years, my coverage of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has followed something of a ritual. The riders would ride the track. The riders would talk to the media about how awful the track was, the bumps, the different types of asphalt, the drainage covers, the joints between the tarmac, the corners which were too tight. I would write about what the riders had said in my nightly round ups. And I would receive an email complaining about what I'd written from IMS' otherwise excellent media office.
It's hard to blame Indy's media office for such a reaction. They are the best media office of all the circuits on the calendar, by a country mile, better organized and providing useful and timely information on everything happening on the track. It is part of their duty to handle criticism of the circuit, especially that coming from a bunch of Europeans only using half the real Speedway track, and requiring corners. They were only doing their job.
They will have a much easier job this weekend. Rider reaction to the changes made at Indy has been overwhelmingly positive, with barely a whisper of criticism of the track. The single surface on the infield is a vast improvement, the changes to the track layout make it much more suitable for motorcycle racing, and most of the bumps have been removed. The circuit is "more like a normal track," as Marc Marquez put it. Pol Espargaro concurred. Indy is "more of a motorbike track" the Tech 3 man said.
Colin Edwards To Enter Semi-Retirement Early: Will Race Indy, Silverstone And Valencia, And That's It?
Colin Edwards will contest only three more MotoGP rounds in the 2014 season. The Texan is to race at Indianapolis, Silverstone and Valencia, before hanging up his helmet. From Brno, Alex De Angelis will take Edwards' place, and Edwards will race as a third rider for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team in the UK and at the last race of the year.
Edwards' final year in MotoGP has not gone according to plan. The Texas Tornado had hoped that the arrival of the Yamaha Open class bike at Forward, to replace the Kawasaki-powered CRT machine would spark a revival in his fortunes. When Edwards finally got to ride the Open class Yamaha, however, he found to his dismay that he could not get on with the Yamaha chassis, and was unable to get the bike to turn. He had pinned his hopes on the arrival of a chassis from FTR, but financial problems for the British chassis manufacturer meant he was left to struggle with the Yamaha frame until Mugello. When a new chassis did arrive, fresh from the drawing board of now ex-FTR designer Mark Taylor, it did not see Edwards drastically improve his pace.
There are few motorsports venues more iconic than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Of the places I've visited, only Monza comes close: you can feel the ghosts of all the men and women who have raced there. With its massive grandstands and historic racing museum, the vast facility is breathtaking. It is a magic place.
Sadly, the magic is all around the 4 kilometer rectangular oval on which the Indy 500 is held, and not so much around the road course used by MotoGP. The rather tight, artificial infield road circuit feels very much like an afterthought, something retrofitted to allow a greater range of activities at the facility. If the oval layout is spectacular, the road course is positively pedestrian.
To the credit of the Speedway, they have done an awful lot to try to improve the track. Last year, there were at least four different types of asphalt around the circuit, and the infield section was considered too tight for overtaking maneuvers. In an effort to solve both those problems at a stroke, turns 3 and 4, turn 7 and turns 15 and 16 have all been modified. The changes are aimed at opening the corners up a little, making them a little faster and more flowing. The change at turns 3 and 4 should make for more natural corners, and a better transition back onto the outside oval. Turn 7 has been altered to open it up, making a more natural chicane rather than the right-angle corner it was before. Turns 15 and 16 are now a little more flowing, and again have been modified to provide a more natural transition onto the oval. At the same time, the infield has been completely resurfaced, so that it now has just one type of asphalt.
Jorge Lorenzo has signed a new two-year deal with Yamaha. The 2010 and 2012 world champion will stay with the factory Movistar Yamaha team in MotoGP for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
The deal had been widely expected, as the two sides have been in serious negotiation since Assen. With both the Repsol Honda and factory Ducati full up, Lorenzo had few other options, and it was simply a matter of contract details between Yamaha and the Spaniard. It was widely rumored that Lorenzo was looking for a single-year deal, or an option to leave early, but the announcement makes no mention of that. However, Spanish media are reporting that a compromise was reached in the form of an option for both sides to terminate the contract a year early, at the end of 2015.
Lorenzo's signing completes the factory line ups of the three manufacturers already in MotoGP. Suzuki are expected to announce their line up for 2015 as well, consisting of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales. Attention will then turn to Aprilia, and their return to MotoGP, which is mooted to have been brought forward a year to 2015.
Below is the press release from Yamaha announcing the deal with Jorge Lorenzo:
Yamaha and Jorge Lorenzo Confirm New Two-Year Agreement
As had been widely anticipated, Stefan Bradl has signed with the NGM Forward Racing team for the 2015 season. The German had been forced to look for a ride after losing his support from HRC, Honda providing a major part of the backing for Bradl at the LCR Honda team. Although LCR were keen to retain the German, without financial support from HRC, that would have been a costly business. With HRC backing Cal Crutchlow, Bradl was left to look elsewhere.
The 2011 Moto2 champion will switch to NGM Forward for 2015, where he will help lead development of the Forward Yamaha. That bike - a Yamaha M1 engine in a chassis built by Forward and designed by ex-FTR chassis guru Mark Taylor, running under the Open class rules - has shown promise in the hands of Aleix Espargaro at the Sachsenring, when the Spaniard tested it during practice. Having a rider of Bradl's caliber should help make the project more competitive. Bradl was keen to have a competitive ride for next season, after losing the LCR Honda seat, and the Forward Yamaha is one of the very best seats available.
With the announcement that Cal Crutchlow is to move to the LCR Honda team for 2015, making space for Andrea Iannone to move up to the Factory Ducati team, the beginnings of a MotoGP grid are starting to emerge for 2015. Both Repsol Honda seats are confirmed, as are both Factory Ducati riders and Valentino Rossi at Movistar Yamaha, with Jorge Lorenzo expected to announce a deal with Yamaha very soon. In the satellite teams, only Pol Espargaro is confirmed at Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, as is Crutchlow at CWM-LCR Honda.
With those names in place, we can start to draw up a list of who will be where, and who could be where for 2015. We have broken that list into three separate tables, based on the certainty of their deals: riders with confirmed contracts; riders and teams with deals that are expected to be confirmed very soon; and deals which are likely to happen, but are still not certain. The confirmed deals speak for themselves, those riders will definitely be on those bikes in 2015 (or longer - the contract date is in the last column of the table). The interest is in the expected and possible tables, where things are still far from certain.
It looks like Ducati will get their all-Italian line-up after all. Both GPOne.com and Speedweek are reporting independently that Cal Crutchlow will be leaving Ducati to join LCR Honda for the 2015 season. Officially, Crutchlow had until 31st July to exercise his option to leave Ducati, but it appears that Ducati management agreed to an extension, while negotiations continued with Honda. An agreement was reached late last night, Speedweek is reporting, with one of the main points of contention being the payoff Crutchlow would receive from Ducati for leaving.
A week ago, Crutchlow announced that he would be staying with the Italian factory at the World Ducati Week event. Since then, however, the situation changed, with Crutchlow's manager Bob Moore reaching agreement with Ducati management to explore further options. That led directly to the release of Crutchlow to join LCR.
Crutchlow is the latest in a long line of victims claimed by the Italian marque. Marco Melandri was the first to leave, departing early from a two-year contract of struggling miserably in 2008. Valentino Rossi sat patiently through his two seasons at Ducati, seizing the opportunity to return to Yamaha as soon as he could. And now Cal Crutchlow, courted by Ducati for a long time in the belief that he could solve their problems, has also departed. Crutchlow has struggled all season long, both with a string of mechanical failures, and with trying to adapt his riding style to the difficult Desmosedici.
Yet another manufacturer is to enter MotoGP, it was announced yesterday. KTM is to join Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki and, most probably, Aprilia in MotoGP, with KTM moving up to the premier class in 2017, a year after the new regulations take effect and Michelin takes over as single tire supplier.
The news was announced by KTM CEO Stefan Pierer, in an exclusive interview with the German-language website Speedweek. In that interview, Pierer set out the approach KTM will take to MotoGP, which will be a departure from the more traditional route of the other manufacturers in the class. The idea is not to enter as a factory team, but to build a bike and make it available to customer teams, much as they currently do in Moto3.
That bike will be a 1000cc V4, housed in a tubular steel trellis frame. The bike will have suspension from KTM subsidiary WP, as supplied with the Moto3 machines. Design work has already started on the V4 engine, and it is due to be tested on the dyno for the first time in May 2015. The complete bike will take to the track at the end of 2015, with 2016 being used to complete development of the bike, ready for the 2017 season. Pierer told Speedweek that wildcard appearances in the second half of 2016 are a definite possibility. The bike will be available to interested teams at a price of around 1 million euros, Pierer said, as that is the price at which Dorna has been trying to get the manufacturers to supply MotoGP bikes.
Red Bull is to make its long awaited return to sponsoring a team in the MotoGP class. The Austrian energy drink giant has announced that they will expand their sponsorship of the Repsol Honda team for 2015 and 2016, with the Red Bull logo appearing on the team's Honda RC213V machines for the first time.
The move is a major step forward for Red Bull. The energy drink firm withdrew from the premier class in 2002, at the start of the MotoGP era, after having sponsored the WCM team, then racing Yamaha YZR-500s as the Red Bull Yamaha team. Since then, Red Bull's strategy has been focused on individual riders rather than teams, with its focus switched to Honda. Red Bull backed Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, Stefan Bradl, and when they were at HRC, Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden. The Austrian energy drink logo had appeared on the LCR Honda machine at some of the US rounds of MotoGP, but so far, they had held off on backing a team full time.
After his seat in the IODA Racing team fell through due to a lack of funds, Leon Camier is to race in MotoGP in 2014 after all. The Englishman is to replace Nicky Hayden on the Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R for both the Indianapolis and Brno rounds of MotoGP.
Hayden had surgery last week to remove a row of bones in his right hand, including the scaphoid he injured in a crash in 2011. On Tuesday, Hayden was examined for the first time after surgery, and although his recovery is going well, he will require an extended period of rehabilitation before he is ready to return to race. As a result, Hayden will be forced to skip both the Indianapolis and Brno rounds of MotoGP, in the hope of returning to action at Silverstone at the end of August.
In the meantime, Camier is to ride his production RCV1000R for the two rounds, making his debut in the premier class at last. The Englishman will face an uphill task at Indianapolis, acclimatizing to the Bridgestone tires at a notoriously difficult circuit, and one which he has never ridden. A week later, Camier will face a slightly easier challenge, racing at Brno which he knows from his time in World Superbikes.