Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The problem at Ducati

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


The problem at Ducati

It is good news that Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso have re-signed with Ducati, because if Gigi Dall’Igna hasn’t forgotten how to design a racing motorcycle, then his 100 per cent brand-new GP15 should stop the rot at Ducati.

And there’s a lot of rot to stop. Think back a decade to when Ducati could do no wrong: they were winning MotoGP races and World Superbike titles, performing David versus Goliath feats every weekend. Now they can’t win a thing. Last season was the first in a quarter of century of WSB that they didn’t win a single race and I can’t even remember when they last won a MotoGP race. Hang on, I’ll look it up. It was Phillip Island in 2010, with a certain Casey Stoner on board.

When was the last time Ducati won a MotoGP race without Stoner on board? Back to the history books: it was Loris Capirossi at Motegi 2007, when he made the right call in a wet-dry race. There have been 118 MotoGP races since then. In other words it seems like Ducati have forgotten how to design a racing motorcycle.

Red Bull To Back Repsol Honda Team From 2015

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.

Leon Camier To Replace Nicky Hayden For Indianapolis And Brno MotoGP Rounds

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.

WSBK: Alstare And Iddon Respond To Accusation By Barrier

At Laguna Seca, the third restart was caused by a red flag after a crash that left Sylvain Barrier lying on the track near the start line. Barrier tweeted (in French) that he blamed Christian Iddon for the crash, stating that Iddon hit him on the handlebars. Bimota Alstare, Iddon's team, sent out the following statement describing the contact as a racing incident.
Round Number: 
9
Year: 
2014

Portimao World Superbike Test Press Releases

Press releases issued after the two-day test for the World Superbike teams at Portimao:


Sykes ends official test at Portimao on top

Portimao (Portugal), Tuesday 22 July 2014 - The two day official DWO test drew to a close today at Portimao’s Autodromo International do Algarve with Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) the quickest rider thanks to his 1’42.719s lap time set this morning. The reigning champion and his teammate Loris Baz mainly focused on fine-tuning their ZX-10R as well as testing new items, whilst KRT EVO peer David Salom tried out new parts developed for what will be next year’s Kawasaki machine.

Tom Sykes: “It was a useful test. In the first day the track was not in perfect conditions but we managed to make some progress with the ZX-10R anyway. We started the second day a bit late, we had still some items to try but we had not enough time. Anyway we tried different geometries and improved the overall feeling on the bike. We could make changes that were impossible to do during the race weekends. The lap times were not our biggest concern but it is always nice to finish on top. Now I am going to enjoy the summer break back in the UK and hopefully sort out my hand/wrist problem. I feel we have the right package to be competitive in the final part of the season.”

Year: 
2014

Portimao WSBK Test - Sykes Tops Abbreviated Field After Two Days Of Testing

Kawasaki's Tom Sykes leaves the two-day official World Superbike test with his authority firmly stamped on the WSBK field. The Yorkshireman was nearly a quarter of a second faster than Aprilia's Sylvain Guintoli, and nearly four tenths quicker than his teammate Loris Baz. Marco Melandri was six tenths off the pace of Sykes, with the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies setting the fifth and sixth best times.

Neither Sykes nor Baz had much to work on besides further perfecting set up of the Kawasaki ZX-10R. The development work was handed to EVO rider David Salom, who spent time developing the 2015 version of the bike Kawasaki will race next year. Despite the rule changes coming next season, the Kawasaki is still more closer to a Superbike than an EVO bike, Kawasaki manager Guim Roda told German website Speedweek.

Silly Season Update - Ducati Confirmed, Suzuki Announcement Imminent, And Will Aprilia Be Back Sooner?

The Danish physicist and father of quantum physics Niels Bohr is reputed to have said "Prediction is hard, especially about the future." Just a few days after our comprehensive silly season update was posted, at the World Ducati Weekend event, Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone and Cal Crutchlow all confirmed they would be staying at Ducati for next season, throwing our predictions into disarray. None of the Ducati riders were leaving for Suzuki - or in Cal Crutchlow's case, a satellite Honda - meaning that the Japanese factory was forced to make a few adjustments to their plans. And not only Suzuki: since the Ducati announcement, more of the pieces of the 2015 MotoGP puzzle have started to fall into place. Time to revisit what we know so far, and what we expect in the next few days.

Ducati Line Up To Remain Unchanged For 2015: Crutchlow Dovizioso And Iannone To Ride Radically Revised Desmosedici GP15

After all the speculation of massive changes in Ducati's MotoGP team, all is to remain the same. During the World Ducati Week event held for fans of the Italian marque at Misano, both Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow announced that they would be remaining with Ducati for 2015, with Crutchlow choosing not to exercise his option to leave, and  Dovizioso being persuaded to sign on for two more years. In addition, Ducati exercised its option to extend the contract with Andrea Iannone, with Iannone to be given factory support.

The decisions by all three riders are a both a show of confidence in the ability of Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna to build a more competitive MotoGP machine, as well as a lack of alternatives elsewhere. The only other factory rides available are the two seats at Suzuki, but given the slow pace of the bike during testing and the amount of development work needed, that was a bigger risk than staying at Ducati.

Post-Sachsenring Surgery Update - Arm Pump Operation For Crutchlow, More Wrist Surgery For Hayden

With nearly four weeks of rest between the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring and the round at Indianapolis, riders are taking advantage of the break to have surgery. On Tuesday, Cal Crutchlow had surgery to relieve arm pump, and help reduce the swelling in his forearms. Crutchlow had had swelling in his forearms since crashing at the Sachsenring in 2013, a situation which previous surgery has done little to relieve. Though he posted a picture of himself on Twitter with both arms in bandages on Tuesday, he was fit enough to type several messages on the social media website a day later. Crutchlow is expected to be fully fit and back in action at Indianapolis. 

Repsol Honda Press Release: Marquez And Pedrosa Complete Test At Brno

Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have completed their three-day test at Brno.  The final half-day of the test was used to further work on set up and new parts for the 2014 bike, though Marc Marquez also put in five laps on the 2015 machine.

The Repsol Honda riders also tested a thumb-operated rear brake at Brno, similar in set up to the system used by Mick Doohan. The system was being tested because of the extreme lean angles modern MotoGP bikes are achieving, Pedrosa told MCN's Matt Birt. Birt also reported that Honda have no intention of racing the system, but wanted to try it.

Below is the press release issued by HRC after the three-day test:

Three-day test concludes in Czech Republic


Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have completed the private Honda test in Brno. Both riders used these three days to prepare themselves for the second half of the season and also had the chance to ride the first version of the 2015 machine. On this final day, both riders finished testing at lunchtime with Dani stopping first after 16 laps on the 2014 machine. Marc completed 41 laps on the 2014 bike and 5 laps on the 2015 prototype.

Year: 
2014

Bridgestone Press Release - Shinji Aoki On The Unique Challenges Of The Sachsenring

The last race before the summer break also sees the last MotoGP debrief from Bridgestone. In this press release, Shinji Aoki addresses the unique challenges posed by the Sachsenring circuit, with so many left-hand corners and just a few right handers. The press release appears below:


German MotoGP™ debrief with Shinji Aoki

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium & Hard; Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)

Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main), Main (Alternative)

The 2014 German Grand Prix at Sachsenring saw Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez secure his ninth successive victory and complete a clean sweep of the first half of the MotoGP™ season. It was a successful weekend for Repsol Honda with Dani Pedrosa taking second place on the rostrum, while Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo also handled the tricky conditions well to finish in third place.

Round Number: 
9
Year: 
2014

Tito Rabat To Remain With Marc VDS In Moto2 For 2015

As expected, Tito Rabat has confirmed he will stay with the Marc VDS Racing team for 2015, and spend another year in Moto2. The Spaniard had an option in his contract which would allow him to leave for a MotoGP team if he were to win the Moto2 title and he had an offer from a factory team. With few factory option bikes on offer next year, and with the MotoGP rules set to change in 2016, Rabat elected to stay in Moto2 for another year, and if he wins the title, become the first ever Moto2 champion to defend his crown.

The announcement also confirms Marc VDS' intention to remain in Moto2 and not move up to MotoGP, as we have been reporting for some time. The deadline for the team to make a decision to move up to MotoGP was at Assen, with chassis builder Kalex needing confirmation from either Marc VDS or Pons before they could start to go ahead and build chassis for the Yamaha engines available for lease. With the introduction of a single set of electronics, and Michelin replacing Bridgestone, moving up to MotoGP in 2015 was a risk. Waiting for a year will allow teams such as Marc VDS to judge which is the most competitive package, and which manufacturer appears to be adapting to the new tires best.

The Comprehensive Midsummer MotoGP Silly Season Update - Ducati, Suzuki, Aprilia, Satellite Rides, Moto2 And Much More

This year's silly season – the endless speculation about who will end up riding where next year – has not so far lived up to the expectations from the start of the year. With all four factory Honda and Yamaha riders out of contract at the end of 2014, real fireworks were expected in the battle to secure signatures. That bidding war never unfolded, and with Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa back with Repsol Honda, Valentino Rossi already signed up to Movistar Yamaha, and Jorge Lorenzo looks likely to finalize his deal – a two-year contract with some kind of option to depart after a year – before the season resumes again in Indianapolis.

But silly season has been far from a disappointment. Over the past couple of weeks, the jostling for the remaining seats in MotoGP has really taken off, with the promise of wholesale changes taking place up and down the grid. With the exception of Pol Espargaro, who is expected to remain at Tech 3 for the second year of his two-year contract with Yamaha, just about every other seat on the grid could see a new occupant. The arrival of Suzuki and, it now appears, Aprilia offers four new factory seats to vie for, opening up new opportunities for the current crop of riders. The upgrading of Honda's RCV1000R makes the production Honda a more attractive proposition. And there looks set to be an influx of young talent into the class. The 2015 MotoGP grid could look very different, once you look past the top four.

While the factory line ups at Honda and Yamaha will be unchanged for next year, the factory Ducati team is likely to sport two new faces for 2015. Although Cal Crutchlow has a year to go on his contract with the Italian factory, neither party is particularly happy with the arrangement. Crutchlow has never really got over the shock of just how poorly the Ducati turns compared to the Yamaha he left behind, and has found it hard to keep his criticism to himself. Ducati, in turn, are not enamored of Crutchlow's forthright manner of speaking, nor of his criticism of the bike. Crutchlow's results have also been a disappointment to Ducati, although the Italian factory must bear some of the blame, given the many mechanical and electronics issue the bike has suffered. Ducati point to the performance of both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, though conceding that the two Italians have already had a year on the bike. For anyone who rode the Desmosedici GP13, the GP14 is a huge improvement. For anyone who rode a 2013 Yamaha M1, it is a complete disaster.

Repsol Honda Press Release: Marquez And Pedrosa Test 2015 RC213V On Second Day Of Test

Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have completed the second day of their test at Brno. Though most of the day was spent testing their current bike, both Pedrosa and Marquez also rode the preliminary version of the 2015 RC213V. Visually, there are few differences with the 2014 bike, though there are a few details visible. Dani Pedrosa told MCN's Matt Birt that the main difference was in the frame, which was aimed at improving corner entry. Motocorse blogger Manziana noticed the most obvious difference was in the rear subframe mounting point. Moving that mount suggests that fuel tank has also been moved, something which would certainly have an effect on braking and corner entry. The press release from Honda appears below:


Marquez and Pedrosa have first outing on 2015 machine

After yesterday’s tricky weather conditions, today Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa had their first taste of next year’s bike.

Year: 
2014

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can racing ever be too safe?

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


Can racing ever be too safe?

Here are a few philosophical questions for you. Can motorcycle racing ever be too safe? Or how safe/dangerous should MotoGP be? Should MotoGP return to the Isle of Man TT and damn the consequences, or should Dorna take advantage of the trillions of dollars available from Middle Eastern oil nations keen to establish mind-bogglingly ostentatious racetracks in their kingdoms, with thousands of metres of sandy runoff at every corner?

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