The Liberty Racing team has today announced they will be withdrawing from the World Superbike championship. The announcement is hardly a surprise: the Liberty team announced their withdrawal last year after the Silverstone round, missing the final four rounds of the series. The team had not fared much better in 2013, making a late start and missing the first round of the championship in Phillip Island. Now, after just three races, they have pulled out once again.
The withdrawal of the Liberty Racing team leaves Mark Aitchison without a ride for the rest of the season, after the Australian agreed a late deal to ride for the team. It also leaves the World Superbike field looking very sparse, with just 18 full-time entries left on the grid. The World Superbike grid weathered the first storms of the global financial crisis relatively well, due to lower costs of competition, but poor TV coverage of the series for the past few seasons has seen numbers dropping season by season, with the 18-bike grid the result. Dorna and the MSMA hope that the new rules discussed recentlly, limiting the cost of a bike to 300,000 euros per rider per season, will help make the series more affordable, and help swell numbers on the grid.
Below is the official press release issued by Liberty Racing on their withdrawal:
2013 Le Mans MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Of Titles, Shot Tires, Fast Students, And A Spaniard-Free Podium
Defending titles is not easy. In the last twenty years, only Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi have managed to win successive championships, despite both Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner winning twice. Why is it so hard? A lot of reasons. Nothing motivates a rider, a team or a factory like losing. Winning a championship requires a lot of hard work and talent, but also a smattering of luck, and at some point, luck runs out. Winning a title means always looking forward, eyes on the prize, while defending a title means looking back, at everyone out to get you. All these things combine to make winning the second title in a row much, much harder than winning the first one.
Jorge Lorenzo found this out the hard way in 2011, when he faced an unleashed Casey Stoner on the Honda RC212V. And now, after his second title in 2012, he's learning exactly the same lesson again, this time at the hands of Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez on the Honda RC213V. At Le Mans, all of the above factors came together, working against Lorenzo to drop him down the field, and move him from just four points to seventeen points adrift of the new championship leader, Dani Pedrosa.
What happened? First and foremost, the Hondas happened. Dani Pedrosa rode a brilliant race to take his second win in a row. It was arguably one of the best races of his career: getting a fantastic start, managing the wet conditions brilliantly, and putting in a number of hard, precise attacks to gain positions. His pass at Garage Vert to take the lead for the final time was one of particular beauty: jamming the bike precisely inside Dovizioso on the first of the double right handers, holding the tighter line, then taking a clear lead through the second. From that point he was gone. Since the Sachsenring last year, Pedrosa has won nine of the last fifteen races, a strike rate of sixty percent. That's the kind of batting average you need to win a title.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after an exhilarating French Grand Prix in Le Mans:
2013 Le Mans MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Exceptional Rookies, Real Race Pace, And What It Takes To Be Champion
Marc Marquez is just starting to let the mask slip. Asked in the press conference about the fact that he will start from pole at Le Mans, despite this weekend being the first time he has ridden a MotoGP bike at the French track, Marquez admitted he always has to play down his chances ahead of each weekend. "On Thursday, I always need to say something similar," he said.
His modesty is very becoming, and throughout the preseason and the early races, he has continued to dampen down overly-inflated expectations. Yes, pole is nice. Yes, winning is fantastic. No, he is not even thinking of the title yet. But everything about Marc Marquez screams ambition, the desire to win, to do what it takes to beat his rivals and prove to everyone what he believes, that he is the best rider in the world, a (self-)belief that motivates every top level athlete.
The last-corner lunge inside Jorge Lorenzo at Jerez will be cited as evidence, but more than that, the desperate attempts in the preceding laps were proof enough, if proof were needed. Is Marc Marquez thinking of winning the MotoGP championship in his first year, a feat previously only achieved by Kenny Roberts? No, it is not chief among his concerns. Is he trying to win as many races as possible, an objective that will bring him the 2013 title if he succeeds? Of course he is. He may not be thinking about the championship, but he is definitely trying to win it.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying for tomorrow's French Grand Prix at Le Mans:
2013 Le Mans MotoGP Friday Round Up: Of Four Fast Men, Improved Ducatis, Redding's Reign, And A Quota On Spaniards
So far, so good. That seems to be the story from the first day of practice at Le Mans. A full day of dry weather - except for the last few minutes of FP2 for the Moto3 class, where the rain turned briefly to hail, only to blow out again as quickly as it came - means that everyone had a chance to work on their race set up. With the top four separated by just 0.166 seconds, the top five are within a quarter of a second, and Alvaro Bautista, the man in ninth, is just over seven tenths from the fastest man Dani Pedrosa.
A good day too for the Hondas. Dani Pedrosa was immediately up to speed, as expected. Marc Marquez was also quick in the afternoon, which was less expected. Unlike Jerez and Austin, this was the first time he rode a MotoGP machine at Le Mans, and getting used to hauling a 260 hp, 160kg bike around the tight layout of the French track is a different proposition to riding a Moto2 bike with half the horsepower here. He took a morning to get used to the track, asked for a few changes to the base set up inherited from Casey Stoner, and then went and blitzed to second in the afternoon, 0.134 seconds off his teammate.
More important than Marquez' speed is his consistency, however. In the afternoon, he posted seven laps of 1'34, which looks to be the pace to expect for a dry race. Only two men did more, Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo having posted nine laps at that pace, with both men also consistently a tenth or two quicker than the Spanish rookie.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Le Mans:
Where do you draw the line? That's the central question in the paddock at Le Mans. The last-corner incident at Jerez is still front and foremost in many riders' minds, though perhaps none more so than Jorge Lorenzo's. Jorge Lorenzo still believes that Marc Marquez should be penalized for the move he made at Jerez, while the rest of the world remains to be convinced.
The subject came up at a rider briefing held by Race Direction at Le Mans, after all of the riders had arrived at the track, but before the press conference was due to begin. The briefing had been convened to discuss other issues - what to do when races are red flagged, behavior on the grid, the procedure for restarts, and a host of other complicated but important details surrounding safety. The briefing was clearly needed, as Marc VDS rookie Livio Loi's post red flag crash at Jerez made clear, the youngster's lack of experience causing him problems.
It was inevitable that the subject of the clash between Marquez and Lorenzo would come up at a meeting such as this, and, depending on whose account you believe, it was inevitable that tempers would be frayed. Lorenzo was described on GPOne as being 'furious' with Race Direction over their refusal to penalize Marquez for his pass at Jerez, though in the press conference, Lorenzo played that report down. He stood by his assertion that Race Direction needed to penalize Marquez, and that he had left the meeting early because "I thought it was over, the briefing, and I leave. Someone has to leave first, so I was the first one to leave."
Press release previews from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of this weekend's French Grand Prix at Le Mans:
Press releases from some of the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after several incident-packed races at Monza:
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after qualifying on Saturday at Monza:
Carlos Checa underwent examination for shoulder pain after the Assen round and found he had an osseous edema on the head of the humerus of the left shoulder, probably the result of an older injury, enraged by the weekend's exertion. This morning, it was confirmed that he would be pulling out of the remainder of the Monza weekend. The 2011 world champion aims to be fit in time to race at the Donington round in two week's time.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the first day of practice at Monza:
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams ahead of this weekend's WSBK round at the iconic Monza circuit:
Ducati Corse issued the following press release, after factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden joined Michele Pirro and Franco Battaini of the Ducati test team at Mugello. The test team were at the Italian circuit for a three-day test, which ended today.
Ducati Team completes setup test at Mugello
Fresh off of last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix and Monday’s post-race test at Jerez, Ducati Team riders Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden were back on track Wednesday and Thursday, this time at Mugello. As the Tuscan circuit is one of the team’s selected test tracks, this was an opportunity to carry out important setup work with the Desmosedici GP13, with an eye toward the Italian Grand Prix, set to take place at Mugello 31 May - 2 June.
Thanks to perfect weather conditions—similar to those that accompanied last year’s Grand Prix at Mugello—the team was able to take full advantage of the planned day and a half of track time, with Dovizioso riding 42 laps on Wednesday and 54 on Thursday, and Hayden turning 29 and 60, respectively. Both riders rode with hard and soft versions of the Bridgestone tyres that will be used at the GP.