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Ant West has been issued a retroactive ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and has had almost all the results for the last 18 months declared invalid. All of West's results between the Le Mans 2012 race and 20th October 2013 have been declared null and void, and will be scrapped from the official Moto2 results.
The retroactive ban goes back to a failed doping test at Le Mans in 2012. West had bought a supplement energy drink without checking the ingredients, and subsequently failed a drug test. The energy drink (Mesomorph) turned out to contain the banned substance methylhexaneamine, traces of which were found in West's urine. At the time, the FIM imposed a one month suspension on West, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed against the leniency of the ban, and that appeal has now been partially upheld.
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.
The Moto2 field for next season is even better filled than the Moto3 grid, with 35 entries for 2014. Like Moto3, the two men who fought for the championship have departed, leaving the championship wide open. The departure of Pol Espargaro and Scott Redding for MotoGP leaves Tito Rabat as hot favorite for the title, after the Spaniard had challenged for most of the season. Rabat has switched from the Pons team to join Marc VDS, where he is already off to a strong start, while teammate Mika Kallio has also showed strongly in preseason testing.
Strongest of all has been Tom Luthi, the Swiss rider having topped the timesheets at the Jerez tests so far. Dark horse in the Moto2 class is surely Nico Terol, who had a very strong end to the season after finally being diagnosed with lactose intolerance, a condition which had been troubling him all year. Since his successful diagnosis, Terol won two out of five races.
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.
2013 Valencia Post-Race Test Day 3 Round Up: Ducati's Hope, Espargaro's Improvement, And Hayden's Honda
The rain that threatened didn't come, to both the relief and the despair of everyone at the MotoGP test in Valencia. After 18 races, three flyaways and two days of testing, there were plenty of folk who had been secretly doing rain dances so they could pack up and go home early. As much as we all love MotoGP - and given the number of people who have to work second jobs to be able to afford to be there, love is the only explanation - the season is long and tiring, and testing is necessary, but a real grind to both do and watch. There were a lot of jealous looks at the empty space where the Factory Yamaha trucks had stood, the team having upped sticks and left at the end of Tuesday.
There were plenty of people who were happy to ride, though, and people who had things to test. Pol Espargaro was delighted to be back on the bike, and continued his impressive debut on the Tech 3 bike. Aleix Espargaro continued work on the NGM Forward Yamaha FTR, while Hiroshi Aoyama and Nicky Hayden continued to ride the production Honda. At Ducati, a mildly despondent Andrea Dovizioso continued to turn laps, while new signing Cal Crutchlow learned about the grind that riding for Ducati can be, testing lots of things that don't appear to make much difference to the bike. Crutchlow remained positive, pointing to the fact that even though the experiments had failed to produce a blistering lap time, the fact that his feedback was the same as Dovizioso's and the other Ducati riders, it would prove useful in the search for improvement.
2013 Valencia Post-Race Test Day 2 Notes: Hayden's Honda, Edwards On The FTR, And The Brothers Espargaro
The track was a lot busier on Tuesday at Valencia, after the halfhearted beginning to MotoGP testing on Monday afternoon. A group of well-rested riders took to the track to get prepared for the 2014 onslaught, and take the first steps on the road to a new season. Some familiar faces, some new faces, but also a couple of new bikes, with the Yamaha FTR machines run by Forward Racing making their debut on the track, and Nicky Hayden getting his first taste of the Honda RCV1000R.
The times set by the brand new Open class bikes hardly set the world on fire, but that was to be expected given the fact that this was the first time either of them had seen serious use in the hands of Grand Prix riders. 'Don't forget that Casey [Stoner] did just five laps in Motegi with that bike,' Honda principal Livio Suppo told me. 'It's really just a first shakedown with the riders.' That point was illustrated by Scott Redding, who has a problem with the wiring loom of the Gresini RCV1000R, and had to wait while they fixed that problem. It was probably for the best, as Redding is still struggling with injuries to his arm and back. The problems is worse in left handers, which Valencia has in abundance. By the end of the long left of Turn 13, the pain had become almost unbearable, Redding said.
2013 Valencia Post-Race Test Day 1 Round Up: Rossi's New Crew Chief, Crutchlow's Strong Debut, And Gigi Dall'Igna On Ducati's Future
Having a test on the Monday after the last race of the season is a rather cruel punishment for the MotoGP riders. The Sunday night after Valencia is usually a rather festive affair, with teams holding parties to mark either the departure of one rider, the arrival of a new one, celebrating success or drowning their sorrows. For those 'lucky' enough to go to the FIM Gala awards, a stately and formal affair, there is also the need to blow off some steam afterwards, riders never very good at sitting still for a couple of hours while official presentations are made. Most people in the paddock are usually a little worse for wear on Monday morning.
Several years ago, the riders were given respite on Monday as journalists were allowed to ride the bikes, but as technology and tires have moved on, just getting the tires to work requires the kind of commitment and riding talent sorely lacking among the denizens of the media center (though they would only admit it under severe torture). Tired of spending many thousands of euros to repair the damage done after the inevitable crashes, that idea was abandoned, freeing up the Monday testing slot. The last couple of years, it was filled by the Moto2 and Moto3 tests, but a single day was not much use, and so the Moto2 and Moto3 teams will now test separately.
So the start of testing saw quite a few bleary-eyed riders turn up for work on Monday afternoon, the test supposed to start at noon. Though the track was clear, and the weather was perfect - warm, dry, with thin clouds preventing the track temperatures from going sky high - much of the action was confined to pit lane, where hordes of reporters thronged around the Ducati, Gresini and Tech 3 garages, where Cal Crutchlow, Scott Redding and Pol Espargaro were due to make their debut. There was also plenty of ogling at Yamaha's 2014 machine, though there were virtually no discernible differences between it and the 2013 bike it replaces. MotoGP bikes tend to change in small evolutionary increments - a different frame wall thickness here, a weld moved a couple of millimeters there, or even more intangible, the invisible world of bits and bytes that control so much of MotoGP performance nowadays - so of the thirty of forty people milling around Jorge Lorenzo's 2014 bike, there may only have been two or three which could genuinely spot the differences. I was not one of them.
I knew it was going to be a big day at Valencia when I found myself taking two hours to get into the circuit on Sunday morning instead of twenty minutes. After years of relatively light traffic on the back roads, I took a wrong turning and found myself on the main motorway going from Valencia to Madrid, which was packed with cars and motorcycles heading to the circuit near Cheste. The sun was shining, two titles were to be decided between five Spaniards, and that had brought the fans out in force. I was stuck in the middle of them, reminding myself once again that the best way - the only way - to visit a motorcycle race is on a motorcycle. These were big, big crowds who had come to see a show.
And what a show they got. The Moto3 race took a while to come alight, but once it did it was explosive. The first casualty was Luis Salom, the championship leader falling shortly after the halfway mark. It was his second unforced error in consecutive races, surprising given that Salom is the oldest and most experienced of the three men in the running for the Moto3 title. That left Alex Rins and Maverick Viñales, and with four laps to go, the battle started hotting up in earnest. Viñales was pushing, getting past Rins only to run wide and let the Estrella Galicia rider back through. He looked wild, off line, barely in control, and liable to crash out at any time. But he didn't, he held on, diving past Rins in the final corner to take the lead and leaving him nowhere to go. At Saturday's qualifying press conference, Rins predicted the Moto3 title would be decided in the last corner. He was right, though he had probably hoped that it would be him deciding it in his favor.
Viñales was the first deserved winner of the day, and the first title to be settled. Despite having the fewest wins of the three title contenders, the Team Calvo rider held his nerve, profited from the mistakes of Salom and Rins, and when it counted, pushed home his advantage. Before Motegi, he had given up on winning the Moto3 title, he said after the race. But when Salom and Rins crashed out, he believed it was possible. He had complained about his bike all season, that it didn't have enough power and he couldn't keep up with his two main rivals. At Valencia, his team had given him the best bike of the year, and Viñales had repaid them with a win and a title. After Viñales tantrums at the end of 2012, when he refused to race and walked out of his then team, he had looked to be more trouble than he was worth. But team manager Pablo Nieto had decided he was worth a second chance. At Valencia, Nieto's faith was repaid with interest.
2013 Valencia MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Pressure, Mistakes, Engines, And How To Win A Championship
After all the drama, the talk stops tomorrow. Two titles on the line, and five men to fight over them. On Sunday, there will be no talk of crew chiefs being sacked, of team bosses appealing for penalty points, of teams concocting dubious plans, of teammates, team strategies or team orders. When the red lights go out, and the thunderous roar of four-stroke racing motorcycles fills the natural bowl which cradles the tightly wound ribbon of tarmac that is the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, it is every man and woman for themselves, and the devil take the hindmost. Nearly a hundred young men and one young woman will take to the track on Sunday. Most have already had their dreams of glory shattered; three more will share that disappointment; only two will etch their names permanently into the history books.
Both the Moto3 and the MotoGP titles are still undecided, the winner of each race likely to be crowned champion. The Moto2 title is already decided, and going on the evidence of practice and qualifying, the race could be over within a couple of laps, Pol Espargaro hoping to top off his championship with a win in the final race in front of his home crowd. The HP Tuenti Pons rider has been fastest in every session so far, usually by a comfortable margin, so his objective looks well within his grasp. Others may try to prevent an Espargaro victory march, but it doesn't look like either Tito Rabat, Jordi Torres or Nico Terol will be able to do much about it. Espargaro has deserved his title, repaying the faith Yamaha put in him when they signed him to the Tech 3 MotoGP team at Qatar, before the very first race of the year.
Aleix Espargaro and Colin Edwards will race for the NGM Forward team in MotoGP next year, riding FTR-based Yamaha production machines. The announcement had been expected for a very long time, but confirmation only came on Saturday morning at Valencia, as haggling over buying out Espargaro's contract had continued over the past couple of months. Negotiations have finally been completed, and Espargaro has been cleared to join Forward.
MotoGP fans have been rubbing their hands in anticipation of this weekend's final round of the championship. The race has everything: a mental Moto3 race to be decided outright by the rider who wins, with just five points separating Luis Salom, Maverick Viñales and Alex Rins; a triumphant homecoming for a newly crowned Moto2 champion, Pol Espargaro wearing a positively regal helmet to celebrate, while his title rival Scott Redding wears special leathers and helmet thanking the Marc VDS Racing team who have stood behind him for the past four seasons; and a shootout for the MotoGP championship, between Jorge Lorenzo, a man with nothing to lose, and Marc Marquez, who has to balance between riding hard enough to keep the bike working properly and not taking any unnecessary risks, while ensuring he comes home in fourth, something which sounds easier than it is. There were even a couple of sideshows: the presentation of the Honda RCV1000R production racer, and Yamaha's annual technical presentation, in which they brief the media on how they have developed the bike to be so competitive.
All that is forgotten. Valentino Rossi's shock announcement on Thursday that he had told long-term crew chief Jeremy Burgess that he wanted to replace him with someone else has dominated the headlines, as well as the hearts and minds of almost everyone in the paddock. In the search for the elusive last couple of tenths of a second which separate Rossi from the three Spanish superstars who have dominated the 2013 season, the Italian is leaving no stone unturned. Even the most revered of institutions - Burgess is held in extremely high regard throughout the paddock, even by his fiercest rivals - are no longer sacred. Rossi still wants to win, and so far, he has failed. 'We've been chasing rainbows for four years,' as Burgess so succinctly put it, but to no avail. 'We haven’t nailed anything decent in those four years. These are long periods in racing and it becomes more and more difficult.'
Valentino Rossi has decided to seek a new crew chief. After 14 seasons working together, in which the pair have amassed 7 world championships, Rossi and Jeremy Burgess are to part ways, and Yamaha are actively seeking a replacement for the Australian veteran. Rossi had taken the decision after a disappointing season with Yamaha, after being unable to match the pace of his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, and Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa.
'It is true that next year Jerry won't be my chief mechanic,' Rossi told the press conference. The decision had not been taken lightly, he said. 'It was a very difficult decision for me because I have a great history with Jeremy. He is not just my chief mechanic. He is like part of my family. My father in racing.' Rossi felt he had been forced to make a decision to try to make a change, to regain his competitiveness. 'I've decided for next year I need to change something to try to find new motivation and to have a boost to improve my level, my speed. So this will be my last race together with Jeremy.'
Honda today officially unveiled one of the most eagerly anticipated motorcycles of recent years, and a key bike in the future of MotoGP. At the Valencia circuit, Honda unveiled the Honda RCV1000R, their production MotoGP racer, for entry in the Open class, which is to replace the CRT class for last year. The bike is a close sibling of the factory Honda RC213V raced by Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl, with a few modifications to make the bike cheaper to produce. This means that while the engine configuration is identical - a 90° V4 - the engine runs conventional metal valve springs rather than the pneumatic valves run by the factory bikes, and a conventional gearbox rather than a seamless transmission. The chassis geometry is also identical, though there are minor differences in chassis stiffness between the two bikes.
The RCV1000R will run the spec Magneti Marelli hardware and Dorna software, rather than Honda's custom and highly complex electronics package run on the factory bikes. One sign of that was the lack of torque sensor on the bike output shaft which is used on the factory Honda. The bike will have a 24 liter fuel allowance, though Honda do not expect to need that fuel. They will also have 12 engines to last a season, instead of the 5 allowed for factory entries.