Latest MotoGP News
2014 Jerez MotoGP Saturday Round Up: On Innovation, Marquez And Miller Magic, And The Upside Of EU Law
Motorcycle racing is a continual war of innovation. It is a war fought out on many different battlegrounds at many different times, but at its heart, it is about finding new ways, better ways of doing things. Engineers, teams and riders are always looking for some small advantage, turning what they do upside down in the hope of finding something to exploit.
Usually, when motorcycle racing fans talk about innovation, they have a vision of hard metal in their minds, of parts belonging on a motorcycle. They will point to aluminium twin spar frames, to upside down forks, to seamless gearboxes. Some may allude to slightly less tangible improvements: Honda's Torductor, a sensor used to measure the forces going through the engine sprocket directly; perhaps Yamaha's electronics package, which combines 3D models of the racetrack with predictive models of tire wear and fuel load to provide adaptive vehicle dynamics strategies.
With everyone slowly recovering from the shock of the announcement that Bridgestone is pulling out of MotoGP at the end of the 2015 season, it is easy to forget that we are here for a motorcycle race. The roar of Grand Prix machinery hurtling around the beautiful Circuito de Jerez on a glorious Andalusian morning soon dispelled thoughts of 2016, and concentrated minds on what is to come on Sunday.
The heat of the afternoon, though, made thinking tough, and riding even tougher. Track temperatures rose to over 50°, robbing the circuit of even more grip, and making it greasier than ever. Rider consensus was that the track was in pretty good shape, but when it's this hot, the already low-grip surface of Jerez becomes very difficult to ride. That meant that the number of riders who managed to improve their times in FP2 in all three classes were limited.
The Marc VDS Racing team is considering moving up to MotoGP for the 2015 season. Team manager Michael Bartholémy has started the process which could lead to a MotoGP entry for next season.
A switch to MotoGP is far from being a foregone conclusion, Bartholémy was keen to emphasize. 'This is the first step in a long, political process,' he said. The first stage would consist of talks with Marc van der Straten, the Belgian brewing magnate who owns the eponymous team, here at Jerez, then again two weeks later at Le Mans.
Bartholémy would also have to liaise with Carmelo Ezpeleta to make sure that there was a grid slot available for the team should they choose to move up to MotoGP. 'The problem at the moment is that we do not have a place on the grid,' Bartholémy said.
The Jerez round of MotoGP could be the very last race for Colin Edwards. The Texas Tornado could relinquish his place in MotoGP directly after the Spanish race, to make way for another rider.
NGM Forward team boss Giovanni Cuzari told Italian Sky TV that there would be a meeting on Monday with Edwards to discuss his future with the team. Forward's sponsors are reportedly not happy with having Aleix Espargaro circulating at the front, while Edwards has been unable to match the pace of his teammate.
Edwards has been unhappy with the Yamaha chassis from the very beginning, and had hoped to receive a chassis from FTR, which Forward had originally intended to race for 2014. However, Forward is alleged not to have paid FTR for the chassis, and the British chassis builder has refused to supply the frames, which are rumored to be now sitting idly in the company's headquarters in Buckingham.
2014 Jerez MotoGP Thursday Round Up: On Bridgestone's Withdrawal, Slower Lap Times, And Stopping Marquez
There's a race on Sunday, but all the talk is of 2016. Why the seemingly absurd preoccupation with a date that is so ridiculously distant in the future? Because from 2016, MotoGP will have a new tire supplier, after Bridgestone announced they will be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of 2015. Why does this matter? Because tires are the single most important component of a motorcycle, and determine the performance of a machine to a massive extent. No matter how much power your engine produces, if you can't get it to the ground, it becomes irrelevant. No matter how powerful your brakes, if the front tire collapses when you squeeze the front lever, you won't be doing much slowing down. Even if you can brake and accelerate as much as you like, if the bike wanders around like drunken poodle on a skateboard when you tip it into the corner, your laptimes won't be up to much.
It is hard to overstate just exactly how important tires are to motorcycle performance. Why is Aleix Espargaro so consistently fast during qualifying, on a bike that is two years old and with an engine under strict control by Yamaha? Because the Open class entries have a softer rear tire available, and that tire itself is worth half a second or more. That is not to belittle the elder Espargaro's performance, as clearly, he is riding exceptionally well, but the softer rear tire makes a big, big difference.
Another example: during the press conference today, Marc Marquez was asked by Thomas Baujard of the excellent French magazine Moto Journal about how he manages to enter the corners on the front wheel, and tip his Repsol Honda into the turn while the rear wheel is still in the air. It looks spectacular, and seems to defy the laws of physics. Yet Marquez manages it, and manages it consistently.
After the announcement that Bridgestone is to withdraw as single tire supplier to MotoGP at the end of the 2015, Dorna have been quick to announce the details of the tender process to find Bridgestone's replacement. The tender process will be concluded inside of the month of May, with tenders opening today, 1st May, and ending three weeks later on 22nd May.
Below is the press release announcing the tender process:
Bridgestone have announced that they will not continue as MotoGP tire supplier after the 2015 season. The Japanese tire maker will continue for the remainder of this season and throughout 2015 before pulling out of MotoGP.
The move had been expected. Spanish magazine Motociclismo reported two weeks ago that Bridgestone was on the brink of withdrawing, which we covered at the time. There had been growing dissatisfaction between the two parties over the past couple of years, with Bridgestone not feeling they were getting the exposure they needed for the 20 million euros they spend on the series, while Dorna felt that the tires were not contributing to the spectacle of racing, and were built so conservatively in terms of tire durability that they were occasionally unsafe.
At Austin, the first murmurings of the growing rift became audible. Paddock rumor held that Bridgestone, whose contract was due to expire at the end of 2014, had agreed a single year's extension to the end of 2015 to allow other tire suppliers time to develop their tires for MotoGP. With new technical regulations due to take effect from 2016 - all teams will use the spec ECU hardware and software from that point on - starting a new contract period from 2016 makes sense.
Bridgestone is to add an extra compound of front tire for MotoGP riders to choose from. After complaints from the teams over problems at some circuits, Bridgestone has responded by expanding the number of front tires allowed for each rider from 9 to 10, and adding an extra compound of front tire to help deal with differing conditions.
The change to the allocation had long been a wish of the MotoGP riders. Though Bridgestone's two selected compounds performed well under most conditions, a sudden drop in temperatures sometimes left riders and teams struggling. The problem was most pronounced in the morning sessions at circuits like Valencia and Aragon, where temperatures can be very cold. There were several front end crashes in those morning sessions, as tires struggled to get up to temperature. Adding a softer tire should make the morning practice sessions safer, and allow teams to work on setup without compromising safety.
2014 Argentina MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Of New Tracks, Doohanesque Domination, And The Merits Of A Rossi Revival
There is much to be said in praise of the first running of the Argentinian round of MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. First and foremost, praise should be heaped upon the circuit itself. Designer Jarno Zafelli took a formerly pedestrian layout and added just enough kinks and twists to make for an exhilarating and difficult racetrack. There are plenty of places to pass, and sections different enough that teams and riders can concentrate on their strengths, though that makes them vulnerable at other parts of the track. Add in a final section which lends itself to last-gasp attacks – at the risk of penalty points, as Romano Fenati found out – and you have an utterly superb track for motorcycle racing. If Jarno Zafelli of Dromo was hired more often, instead of Hermann Tilke, there would be a lot more fantastic circuits to race at.
The only negative was the fact that the track was still so dirty, a result of it not yet having seen enough action. Once the riders got off line, they found themselves struggling for grip, losing a lot of ground. Fortunately for the races, almost everyone got off line at some point or other, putting them all on an even footing. Once the surface cleans up properly, the track should offer even more places to attack, and alternate lines through sections. The Termas de Rio Hondo circuit is a fine addition to the calendar.
Crowds and racers thought so too. Attendance wasn't as high as expected: nearly 53,000 paying customers on Sunday, well shy of the 70,000 which had been hoped, but over 6,000 more than Laguna Seca, the race it replaced, despite being a long way from the nearest large conurbations. But the atmosphere was electric, and people came from all over South and Central America to see the action. Adding a race in this part of the world was badly needed. The authorities built it, and the crowds came.
Two races and three qualifying sessions in, and all three classes in MotoGP are providing an object lesson in the importance of consistency. Marc Marquez has taken pole for all three MotoGP races, Tito Rabat has done the same in Moto2, and Jack Miller has been on pole for two out of three Moto3 races. There's a similar pattern in the races as well, with Jack Miller having cleaned up in Moto3, and Marc Marquez winning both MotoGP races so far. The only interlopers are Alex Rins, who nabbed a Moto3 pole at Qatar, and Maverick Viñales, who gatecrashed the Moto2 party at Austin. Then again, if you were hoping to have your party gatecrashed, you'd definitely want it done by a man called Maverick.
The routes Marquez, Rabat and Miller have taken to domination of their classes are markedly different, though. Rabat is the most lackadaisical of the three, always leaving it to the last minute before laying down a scorching lap with which he secures pole. His advantage is usually slim, but enough to get the job done. Rabat's leadership of the Moto2 class is sheer consistency, getting the results he needs when he needs them, and always being on the ball.
2014 Argentina MotoGP Friday Round Up: Of Dirty Tracks, Confusing Lap Times, and MotoGP-Hungry Argentinians,
What did we learn from the first day of practice at the brand new Termas de Rio Hondo track in Argentina? We learned that Marc Marquez and Jack Miller learn tracks very quickly indeed. We learned that Moto2 is tight as ever. We learned that South America has been crying out for a round of MotoGP almost since the moment the series left Argentina for the last time in 1999. And we learned that a brand new track always faces teething problems the first time it appears on the calendar. In Argentina, the biggest problem is a dirty track, covered in sand, wreaking havoc on the tires. That, though, is a relatively easy problem to solve: a few more sessions and a grand total of 90 different bikes circulating will clean the track up very quickly.
If anyone was in any doubt as to whether building a circuit in a small town in the middle of the Argentine pampas was a good idea, the crowds lining up to get into the circuit on Friday morning should have dispelled their fears. Reports were that the fans were queuing to get into the track at 7am on Friday. That is quite unheard of in Europe, where the first day of practice is always a good day to spend at the track if you want to explore it and see the action from various points around the circuit. The Argentina round is reportedly already a sell out, with 70,000 tickets sold and only VIP passes left on the open market. This bodes well for the future of the event, and justifies the investment made by government in the facility. If the aim is to attract tourists to Termas de Rio Hondo, and put the town on the map, they have clearly already succeeded.
Two races in, and patterns are already starting to emerge in Grand Prix's junior classes. In Moto2, preseason favorite Tito Rabat is living up to expectations as his challenges fall by the wayside. In Moto3, Jack Miller has a far firmer stranglehold on the class than expected, while the new Honda NSF250RW is proving that when HRC put their minds to building a factory race bike, the competition had better watch out.
Austin, Texas, proved to be a case in point. A bizarre start to the Moto2 race saw a massive pile up at the treacherous first corner, the run up the hill combining with the massive nerves of a Moto2 start – arguably motorcycle racing's most rabid class – to produce chaos. Josh Herrin, feeling the strain of coming in as reigning AMA Superbike champion to find himself running anonymously in mid-pack in Moto2, ran in to Turn 1 too hot, try to jam his Caterham Suter into a spot which wasn't there, and ended up taking down half the field. Herrin was understandably nervous in front of his home crowd, and feeling the pressure of being the ambassador for American racers, but he did himself and any AMA hopefuls looking to Moto2 a disservice. Herrin fractured a collarbone whle training, and so will have to wait until Jerez to start to make amends.
Championship leader Tito Rabat also got a mediocre start from pole, then dropped back a long way in the first couple of laps, before starting to fight his way forward again. Xavier Simeon looked like making it a very big day for Belgium for most of the race, before massively outbraking himself on the way into Turn 1 as he came under press from Dominique Aegerter and Maverick Viñales. Aegerter led for a while, but he could offer no resistance to Viñales. The reigning Moto3 champion quickly opened a gap and crossed the line with a comfortable margin to spare.
The Argentinian round of MotoGP will be the first time a major racing series has visited the Termas de Rio Hondo, the brand new circuit in northern Argentina. As the track is still so new, the circuit designers - Dromo Racetrack Design from Italy - have produced some background material containing key facts about the circuit.
Alongside the list of facts, there are also a couple of interesting infographics giving a better idea of what the track is like. There is a track map showing the elevation change on the circuit. But most interesting of all, is the map created using simulation software to estimate which corner will be taken in which gear, and what speeds will be reached.
As a primer to getting an idea of what to expect this weekend, these infographics, along with the press release from Marc VDS Racing and video lap, are great place to start. Action starts in Argentina on Thursday.
Termas de Rio Hondo MotoGP Lap Time - Simulated with DroCAS™ [Infographic]
Using DroCAS™ simulators, Dromo designed the racetrack as per vehicle dynamics and to enhance rider's skills capabilities.
The result is a fast flowing racetrack as provided in the infographics.
Cal Crutchlow is to miss the Argentinian round of MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. The Factory Ducati rider is still recovering from surgery on the hand he injured during the race at Austin, and is not yet fit enough to race. Crutchlow will be replaced by Ducati test rider Michele Pirro in Argentina.
After his crash at Austin, Crutchlow was originally diagnosed with just a dislocated little finger on his right hand. However, when the swelling on the hand refused to subside, Crutchlow went in for further scans on his right hand in California. There it was found that the finger was still dislocated and was also broken. Crutchlow had surgery to insert a pin into the broken bone to stabilize it. Despite that operation, the 28-year-old Englishman's hand is still swollen, and is in too much pain for him to be competitive. Instead, Crutchlow will fly home to the Isle of Man to continue his recovery, and will prepare for his return at Jerez.
Big changes look to be coming to MotoGP's spec tire system. Now in the sixth season of having a single official supplier, MotoGP is moving closer to seeing the number and variety of tires drastically expanded. With the contract with Bridgestone due to expire at the end of 2014, there is even a serious chance that a new manufacturer could take over from the Japanese tire firm.
A report in the latest issue of the Spanish magazine Motociclismo (available via the Zinio platform), the magazine is reporting that Dorna is looking to change the way that the single tire supply works. Dorna representative Javier Alonso told Motociclismo that negotiations had been opened with several suppliers, including Michelin, Pirelli and Dunlop, as well as current supplier Bridgestone. Dorna had presented Bridgestone with a list of conditions drawn up by the Safety Commission, the liaison body in which the riders discuss safety issues with representatives of Dorna, hosted by safety officer Loris Capirossi.
Though Alonso does not explicitly name the conditions, he does give Motociclismo some context behind their thinking. The idea is to expand the range of tires available at each race, as it has been all too common in recent history for riders to turn up at a particular track only to find that just one of the two compounds available will work. Though the Bridgestone tires have proven to be excellent in terms of both grip and durability, Alonso said, they had proven to be 'difficult for riders to understand sometimes.' The spec tire has also been blamed for creating problems for Ducati. The current tire forces manufacturers to pursue a particular direction in chassis design, which has favored Yamaha and Honda. The intention is not to force Bridgestone to design tires especially for each manufacturer, as Pirelli does in World Superbikes, but to at least provide a much greater spectrum in terms of carcass stiffness and compounds. Senior Ducati personnel believe that a large part of their understeer could be solved by simply having a very different tire available.