If you wanted proof that things are changing at Ducati, you need look no further than the launch of their MotoGP team. In years past, it was an outrageously flamboyant affair, a veritable extravaganza hosted by Philip Morris to showcase their two motor sports projects, the Ducati MotoGP team and the Ferrari Formula One squad. Held at the upmarket Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio, the event even had a proper showbiz name: Wrooom. All that was missing was an exclamation mark.
Ducati's 2014 launch was very different. Held not in Italy, but in Munich and Ingolstadt, on premises owned and operated by Ducati's current owners, Audi. The team presentation at the Audi Forum at Munich airport, the unveiling of the livery in the evening, at the Audi Gebrauchtwagen Plus center in Munich, then to Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt the following day, for the presentation of the Germany company's annual report to the press. If the Wrooom event had been flamboyant and over the top, the 2014 launch was serious, focused, yet still stylish. It felt very much like Italy versus Germany, and Germany won.
There was another difference too. Despite the media having been present at both Sepang tests and the Phillip Island tire test, there was still some real meat for journalists to get their teeth into in Munich. Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, MotoGP project leader Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali, head of technical development at Audi Ulrich Hackenberg, even the riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow all had something new to add. It was much, much more interesting than expected.
The fact that the launch was hosted in Munich, at joint event with Audi, rather than Italy was itself a message, one intentionally framed by both Ducati and Audi. Both Claudio Domenicali and Ulrich Hackenberg, the two heaviest hitters at the Ducati launch, underlined the importance of MotoGP to Ducati. After three years out of contention, Domenicali told the press, the company had even questioned how relevant racing was to its business. After taking a long hard look at racing, Ducati had come to the conclusion that it was a key part of its strategy. Racing lies at the heart of Ducati's brand.
The Red Bull KTM team issued a press release containing an interview with Moto3 rider Jack Miller. In the interview, Miller looks back at preseason testing, talks about his hopes and expectations for 2014, and discusses how spending time on an uncompetitive bike has proven to be a strength. He also predicts when his first podium will come, and dicusses his teammate Karel Hanika. The press release appears below:
"I’ve trained hard for many years and I believe I am prepared"
Dominant in preseason testing, Jack Miller has proven to be one of the in-form Moto3 riders in the week before the start of the World Championship.
He debuted in the World Championship in 2011 and, after contesting the full 2012 and 2013 seasons, Jack Miller has signed with Red Bull KTM Ajo for 2014. The Australian has been quick to adapt to the Finnish team and has taken a big step forward ahead of the season –which starts in a week’s time in Qatar. He will be one of the focuses at Losail when the red lights go out.
How do you rate your preseason?
"It has been a very good preseason. I learnt a lot and the whole team have helped me. We’ve had some truly productive tests, so I think we're prepared."
How was your first experience of the Red Bull KTM Ajo team?
Though it is still some years off, Valentino Rossi is laying the groundwork for his life after racing. The nine-times world champion yesterday announced the start of the VR46 Riders Academy, a program for nurturing young Italian racing talent during the transition into Grand Prix racing.
The academy will consist of offering training facilities to help young riders develop their talent. The riders will have Rossi's gym and his dirt track ranch at their disposal, and will also receive support and tuition from Rossi himself. The first entrants into the academy will consist of the Team Sky VR46 Moto3 riders, Romano Fenati and Francesco 'Pecco' Bagnaia, Moto2 rider Franco Morbidelli, and Luca Marini, Andrea Migno and Nicolo Bulega, all of whom will be competing in the Spanish CEV Moto3 championship. The academy is to be run by Alessio 'Uccio' Salucci, with other key people from Rossi's Tavullia circle.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the last day of the final test at Jerez:
Jack Miller leaves the final Moto3 test of the 2014 preseason in confident mood, having topped the timesheets both on the final day, and leaving as overall fastest. The Red Bull KTM rider did not improve on his time from yesterday, but still held an advantage of three hundredths of a second on the final day, and a tenth of a second overall.
The final day of the test saw a resurgence of the Hondas, both the Estrella Galicia team and Racing Team Germany starting to find a set up which works with the extra power of the Honda engine. The teams still lack some set up date with the new bike, but still booked outstanding progress. Alex Marquez ended the day in 2nd, just behind Miller and ahead of Miller's teammate Karel Hanika, while Efren Vazquez and RTG teammate John McPhee took 5th and 6th, making it three Hondas in the top six, and with Alex Rins taking 10th, four Hondas in the top ten. With Rins still recovering from surgery on his wrist, the Hondas should be a lot closer to the front by the time the season gets underway at Qatar.
Takaaki Nakagami leaves the Jerez Moto2 test as fastest, having dominated all three days of testing. The Idemitsu Team Asia rider was quickest on the final day of the test, just as he had been on Tuesday and Wednesday, holding a comfortable lead over Sandro Cortese on the Intact GP bike. Behind the leading Kalexes came a trio of Suters bearing Thomas Luti, Xavier Simeon and Johann Zarco. Luthi took 3rd on th day, despite still suffering the after-effects of a big highside he had on Wednesday, just edging out Simeon and Zarco, with Luis Salom and Lorenzo Baldassari also very close behind.
With the exception of Nakagami, who held a lead of two tenths over Cortese, the rest of the field was bunched up pretty close. 2nd through 11th were covered by less than half a second, while Ant West down in 19th was the first rider to be a second off the pace of Nakagami. The times were not quite as quick as at the first Jerez test in February, Mika Kallio having posted a lap of 1'42.169 on that occasion. The Marc VDS Racing team and Mapfre Aspar were both absent from the test, having tested tires for Dunlop at Phillip Island last week.
Sam Lowes rode once again on Thursday, though the swollen tendons in his wrist confined him to just 9 laps in the morning. He was the only rider in the top 20 not to have improved his time from Tuesday, and ended the test in 14th.
Repsol Press Release Interview: Dani Pedrosa On Testing, The 2014 Honda RC213V, And Coping With Fuel Limits
The Repsol Press service provided a press release containing an interview with Dani Pedrosa. It it, the 28-year-old Spaniard looks ahead to the 2014 season, and weighs up the strengths and weaknesses of Honda's uprated RC213V. Pedrosa also talks about how he spent the off season, and gives his thoughts on both how the partnership with Repsol helps Honda deal with the reduction in the fuel allowance, and on Ducati's decision to switch to the Factory 2 class.
"The strong relationship between Repsol and Honda can help us adapt quickly to the new 20 litre fuel limit"
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa analyses recent preseason tests and looks ahead to the new season.
With the 2014 preseason over, Dani Pedrosa feels ready for the challenges the year holds for himself and his team. Less than two weeks away from the start of the campaign in Qatar, the Repsol Honda rider is very positive after a speedy start at Sepang and Phillip Island.
After testing in Malaysia and Australia, what is your review of the 2014 preseason?
"It’s been quite positive. We have completed a lot of laps at two different circuits and useful tests have been made with the tyres. Overall, we have made a lot of progress. Nevertheless, we still have room for improvement. Let's see how long we need."
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the second day of testing at Jerez:
Takaaki Nakagami has topped the timesheets on the second day of the final Moto2 test at Jerez. His advantage is slim, though: the Idemitsu Team Asia rider was just fifteen hundredths quicker than Tom Luthi on the Interwetten Paddock Suter, the Swiss rider holding off former Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese. Cortese had a very strong day on the Intact GP Kalex, ending the day in 3rd, and over a tenth ahead of Johann Zarco on the AirAsia Caterham.
Luis Salom continues to make a strong debut in the Moto2 class, grabbing 5th spot a third of a second behind Japanese veteran Nakagami. Fellow Moto2 rookie Maverick Viñales struggled again on Wednesday, managing only the 14th best time, more than eight tenths behind Nakagami. Reigning World Supersport champion Sam Lowes skipped the second day of the Moto2 test, choosing to rest a painful wrist. A tendon inflammation had flared up overnight, he told British site Bikesportnews.com, and he decided to sit out the test, hoping to ride on Thursday.
The test concludes on Thursday, and with it preseason testing. The only concern will be the weather, as light showers are forecast for the afternoon.
Jack Miller has stamped his authority on the Moto3 class on the second day of testing at Jerez. The Australian put a big gap into the competition, ending the day nearly three tenths of a second ahead of the chasing pack. Isaac Viñales grabbed 2nd spot, the Spaniard putting a big gap of his own over Danny Kent. The Husqvarna man was a quarter of a second slower than Viñales, and the fastest of a tight group containing places 3 through 8. Jakub Kornfeil grabbed 4th on the Calvo KTM, just ahead of the first Honda, Efren Vazquez on the Racing Team Germany bike in 5th.
Though the Hondas are showing improvement, there is still plenty of work to be done. The latest revision of the engines now produces sufficient power, Estrella Galicia team manager Emilio Alzamora told Speedweek.com, but the Honda teams still need to spend a lot of time on set up. Fine tuning the bike will take some time, but the Honda teams are confident they can close the gap. They will need the first few races to get everything dialled in before they are completely competitive, however.
The Drive M7 Aspar Team have released a video with Nicky Hayden, in which he looks back at preseason testing and ahead to the 2014 MotoGP season. In the video, Hayden talks about the progress being made during testing, the strengths of the Honda RCV1000R, as well as its weaknesses, his objectives for 2014, and what he expects for this season.
Motorcycle racing fans will get their chance to see world championship motorcycle racing at Laguna Seca this year. Today, the World Superbike press office confirmed that the Laguna Seca round of WSBK is to go ahead as scheduled. The California circuit is to host the World Superbike class on 11-13th of July this year. The round has been secured with the financial backing of US insurance giant GEICO.
The press release confirming the round appears below:
U.S. Round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca confirmed
Barcelona (Spain), Tuesday 11 March 2014 - GEICO Motorcycle has signed on as the presenting sponsor of the GEICO Motorcycle U.S. Round of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship which will take place on July 11-13 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, on California’s scenic central coast.
“GEICO is a natural partner for this incredible motorcycle race weekend that provides access to an influential and extremely loyal enthusiast base,” commented Gill Campbell, CEO and General Manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “As part of the sponsorship program, GEICO will activate onsite and be part of a vigorous website and social media initiative program.”
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of the final test at Jerez:
Takaaki Nakagami has topped the timesheets at the end of the first day of testing for the Moto2 class at Jerez. With the teams and riders having taken delivery of the 2014-spec Honda engines and ECU, the field got down to work on their race set up at the final test of the season ahead of the first race at Qatar.
Nakagami topped the timesheets in the two later sessions of the test, ending the day two tenths up on Tom Luthi, the Interwetten Paddock rider putting in a very solid performance during the preseason. Speed Up rider Sam Lowes continues to make outstanding progress on his Moto2 debut, the reigning World Supersport champion a third of a second off the time of Nakagami. Lowes' position also leaves three chassis makers in the top three, the Suter of Luthi and Speed Up of Lowes close to the Kalex of Nakagami.
Differing fortunes for the Moto2 rookies, Luis Salom ending the day in 4th, while Moto3 champion Maverick Viñales finished in 14th, a second off the pace of Nakagami. Viñales is still feeling the after effects of a crash at the last day of the previous test, but is fit enough to ride. Ricky Cardus made his debut replacing the injured Alex Marinelarena with the Tech 3 team.
After a windy start to the final Moto3 test of the season, Romano Fenati ended the first day in Jerez at the top of the timesheets. The Team Sky VR46 rider topped two of the three sessions for the Moto3 class, ending the day a tenth of a second ahead of Karel Hanika. The young Czech rookie continues to impress on his debut in the class, finishing ahead of his teammate and title favorite Jack Miller, while Danny Kent took 4th on the Husqvarna.
Efren Vazquez was the fastest of the Hondas, the Racing Team Germany rider just under half a second off the pace of Fenati. The Hondas of Estrella Galicia teammates Alex Marquez and Alex Rins were not far behind, Marquez three hundredths slower than Vazquez, Rins nine hundredths slower.
Times at the end of day 1: