One of the best things about running MotoMatters.com (apart from the opportunity to get so close and learn so much about racing motorcycles and the people who are involved with them) is the interaction I have had with readers. I am regularly complimented by people in the paddock on the intelligence and thoughtful tone of the comments on the website. Indeed, I am sometimes put to shame by them, the comments being far more interesting and insightful than the story which appears above them.
It is not just on the website itself. There is also social media, and interacting with race fans via Twitter or Facebook gives me a real sense of what fans think and what they want to know. From time to time, I will also try to arrange a meet up with fans at a racetrack itself, and talk to people directly, although that is too often very hard to fit in to the hectic schedule of a race weekend.
That proves to be the hardest thing for me. So many of the comments and questions come during a race weekend that I never have time to answer them with the attention they deserve. Questions that come in via Twitter are often interesting, but with only 140 characters to play with, giving a full and clear response is often very difficult.
The LCR Honda team issued the following press release after the first day of extra testing laid on for MotoGP rookie Jack Miller:
ROOKIE MILLER BACK ON TRACK AT SEPANG
One half of the CWM LCR Honda Team began the first of three test days at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia today, as preparations for the 2015 season continued before the testing ban comes into force during December and January.
As a rookie to MotoGP next season, the team’s new recruit Jack Miller is entitled to extra test days in order to smooth the transition to the premier class, and was joined out on the 5.543 km (3.444 mile) circuit by various test riders. Temperatures were cooler than during the scorching October race at the track, peaking at around 32°C, but with only four riders testing the surface took a while to clean.
The Australian, who joins the motorcycling elite after finishing as the championship runner-up in Moto3, was able to put in 39 laps of the track on his new Honda RC213V-RS until light rain at 4pm brought a halt to any further progress.
Testing continues at Sepang for Miller and the CWM LCR Honda Team on Thursday and Friday, where the 19 year-old will hope for better conditions to carry on with his adaptation to the new bike.
Jack Miller #43 (2’04.92, 39 laps)
Alex Lowes has topped the second day of combined testing for teams from both major world championships at Jerez. After another wet morning, the track finally dried out in the afternoon, allowing the riders to post competitive lap times. Lowes ended the day as fastest, the Suzuki rider posting a fast lap right at the end of the day, beating his superpole time from the race weekend here back in September.
Lowes was one of a group of riders who chased a quick time at the end of the day, Kawasaki's Tom Sykes ending just over a tenth of a second behind Lowes, while Leon Haslam put the factory-backed Red Devils Roma Aprilia into third place. Both Aprilia WSBK riders were fast all day, Haslam and possible future teammate Michel Fabrizio dominating proceedings earlier.
Testing is set to continue this week in a range of classes, as bikes take to the track in preparation for the 2015 season. The south of Spain will see the most action, with a group of MotoGP teams being joined by the Crescent Suzuki World Superbike team at Jerez, and a selection of Moto2 teams heading to Almeria.
At Jerez, Suzuki and Aprilia will continue work on their bikes ahead of next season. As new factories, they receive the same concessions as Ducati, which means that they are allowed unlimited testing, more engines, they have the softer rear tire, and they are allowed to develop their engines throughout the season. Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro will be riding the GSX-RR for Suzuki, while Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri will be taking the Aprilia ART out for further testing.
Ducati will also be present at the test, Andrea Dovizioso and new teammate Andrea Iannone continuing work on the Desmosedici GP14.2. They are still eagerly awaiting the arrival of the GP15, but that bike will not be ready until the Sepang tests, and most likely, only at the second test at Sepang.
Winter Racing: Superprestigio, 13th December 2014 - Marquez * 2, Rabat, Baker, Mees & Many Others - But No Hayden
After the resounding success of the Superprestigio indoor dirt track event back in January this year, the race is to return. On 13th December, the Sant Jordi stadium on Montjuic, the hill south of Barcelona, will host the second running of the Superprestigio, featuring the cream of motorcycle road racing taking on some of superstars of American flat track racing.
Reigning Superprestigio champion Brad Baker will be back in Barcelona once again, to defend the honor gained back in January. He will be joined by reigning AMA flat track Grand National champion Jared Mees, the two Americans defending the reputation of the home of dirt track, and the country the sport originated in its current form. They will have their work cut out for them: they will face some the best circuit racers in the world, with reigning and former champions taking to the short indoor oval. All three Grand Prix champions - Marc Marquez, Tito Rabat, and Alex Marquez - will be lining up in Barcelona, the three avid practitioners of the art.
One of the things I enjoy most about running the MotoMatters.com website is the ability to communicate and interact directly with fans. Here, and as @motomatters on Twitter (and even one day on Facebook, once I get the page sorted out properly), I derive a lot of pleasure from hearing your questions and answering them to the best of my ability.
Of course, the problem with Twitter is that space to give an answer is severely limited, to just 140 characters. That doesn't leave much space to give as full an answer as the questions usually deserve. Similarly, when responding to comments on the website, I often don't have the time to spend giving the answer the full attention it deserves, as most of the questions and comments come during a race weekend.
It has undoubtedly been a good year for the Marc VDS Racing team in Moto2. Their two riders topped the Moto2 championship, Tito Rabat winning the title, his teammate Mika Kallio ending the year in second, after a season-long battle for supremacy. To celebrate their record-breaking year, the team issued the following press release, listing all of the records broken so far this year:
A record breaking year for Marc VDS
Gosselies, Belgium - 20 November 2014: The Marc VDS Racing Team, or Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS as they are now, dominated the 2014 Moto2 World Championship, with Tito Rabat crowned as the World Champion in Sepang and Mika Kallio securing second place in the Championship one race later in Valencia.
Rabat and Kallio also broke a few records this season, both individually and as a team. The statistics put together by Dr. Martin Raines, the official MotoGP statistician, make for impressive reading, so we thought we’d share.
635 – Total number of points by the Marc VDS team in 2014 – the highest ever single season points score by a two rider team in the history of the intermediate-class of Grand Prix racing.
346 – Tito Rabat finished the year with a total of 346 points in the Moto2 world championship, a new record highest points’ total in the intermediate-class of Grand Prix racing.
24 – Podium finishes for the Marc VDS team in 2014 – the most podium finishes ever by one team in a single season in the Moto2 class.
While the Moto2 and Moto3 bikes were circulating at Valencia, along with the Althea WSBK team, Ducati and Kawasaki wrapped up their test at the Motorland Aragon circuit in preparation for the 2015 World Superbike series. The two Ducati riders were once again fastest, building on the work from Monday, with Davide Giugliano topping the timesheets ahead of teammate Chaz Davies. Jonathan Rea managed to just pip his Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes, an impressive enough performance on his first ride out on the ZX-10R, though reports from the track suggest Rea may have set his best time on qualifying tires.
All of the riders have a lot of work to do, with new technical regulations that restrict the tuning of the engines and limit electronics to a factory-supplied kit. Ducati has the least amount of work to do, the factory already having prepared for 2015 during the 2014 season, and having not to change much as a result. Kawasaki had more work on their hands, much of it falling on the shoulders of Tom Sykes, as Jonathan Rea's main objective at Aragon was simply learning his way around the bike. Also present at the track were a number of journalists and test riders, who got to ride both Tom Sykes' WSBK ZX-10R and the EVO spec Kawasaki ZX-10R with which David Salom took the 2014 EVO crown. Among those doing media laps were former Moto2 race winner Jordi Torres.
2014 Valencia Moto2 And Moto3 Post-Season Test: Rabat Rules Moto2, Rins Impresses, Antonelli On Top Of Moto3
Tito Rabat continued his rule of the Moto2 class at Valencia by ending the final day of testing on top of the timesheets and under the pole record at the Spanish circuit. The newly-crowned 2014 champion spent all day working on set up of the 2015 Kalex machine he will be riding for the Marc VDS team next season. Rabat finished just ahead of Johann Zarco, the Frenchman adapting quickly to the Kalex frame in the new Ajo Motosport team. Jonas Folger was close behind, starting his second year with the AGR team.
Alex Rins once again won the battle of the rookies, this time by a clear margin. The HP Pons rider adapted quickly, posting an impressive eighth-fastest time, just two thirds of a second off the time of Rabat. Alex Marquez had a rougher time, crashing twice without any injury, other than to his confidence. The reigning Moto3 champion ended the day in twelfth, just over a second behind his Marc VDS teammate Rabat.
The FIM have finally released the provisional calendar for the World Superbike series for next year. The 2015 season will see WSBK travel to 14 rounds, returning to all of the venues which hosted races in 2014, and two more overseas rounds added, in Russia and Thailand.
The chances of this being the definitive calendar appear to be slim. Three rounds are marked as still subject to contract: Portimao, Moscow and Qatar. Both Portimao and Qatar look likely to go ahead, but whether WSBK will actually return to Moscow remains to be seen. The 2014 round was canceled due to the political instability in the Russian Federation and the overflow of conflict in Ukraine, which affected various partners of the series. The political situation has only deteriorated since then, with the EU and US imposing sanctions on Russia, making the race there almost impossible. The teams and riders will be hoping for the round to be canceled: the race was a logistical nightmare to get equipment to and from, and for both the fans and riders to attend and find accommodation for.
With the MotoGP factory riders now finished their on-track work for 2014, the teams have time to reflect on their seasons. The Movistar Yamaha team has done so in a pair of press releases, containing interviews with their riders. Last week, we published the interview with Jorge Lorenzo, which means that this week, it is the turn of Valentino Rossi to look back at 2014. It was an outstanding year for Rossi, and he talks about his motivation, how the changes he made at the end of last year affected his performance, and what it takes to remain competitive at 35 years of age. Rossi makes his intention for 2015 perfectly clear: to be fighting for wins and for a title from the start of the next year:
Q: The 2014 season is over. Can you evaluate your performance?
Valentino Rossi: “I am very happy about my performance this season. The balance was very positive. For me this was the key season to decide my future. Last year I wasn’t very happy and I had to decide whether to continue or not. My target was to get to the front, fight with the top three riders and aim to get onto the podium every race. Last year this wasn’t always possible. I am happy that I was able to make it happen this year. I’ve made some big changes at the beginning of the season, but these have worked and I'm happy for that. Throughout this season I’ve always been strong in the race. I had good races and good battles.”
Q: What do you think about this year’s M1? At the beginning of the championship you suffered some lack of performances, but in the second part of the season the M1 won races with both you and Jorge.
VR: "Our M1 has improved a lot during the season, especially thanks to the good job done by both crews. Silvano, Ramon and all the engineers and technicians have worked very well. All together we were able to improve the bike to make it competitive and winning. It's a shame we weren’t able to improve the performance earlier on because most of the gap with Marc was created at the beginning of the season and then it became difficult to recover. If only we could start the season again now, things would go differently, but that's okay. What’s more important is that the bike has improved a lot and that it’s competitive now.”
Though testing for the MotoGP class has finished, motorcycle racers in other series still have plenty of work ahead of them. Both the World Superbike series and the Grand Prix support classes have been hard at work, ahead of a busy schedule of testing. The Ducati and Kawasaki World Superbike teams have been testing at the Motorland Aragon circuit, while Moto2 and Moto3 are back at Valencia.
At Aragon, Jonathan Rea made his long-awaited debut on the Kawasaki ZX-10R, alongside 2013 World Champion and fierce rival Tom Sykes. With the World Superbike teams adapting to the new regulations, the two Kawasakis were a little slower than the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies. The day started off soaking, with journalists and test riders doing media laps on the 2014 bikes of Tom Sykes and David Salom. Once the track dried out in the afternoon, Kawasaki also joined the action. At the end of the day, both Ducati riders clocked up unofficial times of 1'51.3, while Sykes posted a 1'52.2 and Rea a 1'52.7. As an interesting note, they are running the track in its MotoGP configuration, using the long, sweeping double left hander as the final corner, rather than the longer version used by WSBK when the series races there, featuring the hairpin and then right and left combination leading back on to the front straight. Giugliano's best time is three seconds slower than the best time set by Andrea Dovizioso on the first day of practice for the MotoGP race at the circuit.
After the Valencia tests, the Pramac team issued a press release looking back at how the team's two riders, Yonny Hernandez and Danilo Petrucci, fared in the test, and takes a look at what he expects of the two in 2015. The press release appears below:
Pramac Racing Team ready for Moto GP 2015 - Team Manager Francesco Guidotti's analysis
The Valencia week represents the natural division between motoGP 2014 and 2015 seasons. The Grand Prix assigning the world champion title for the three classes passes the baton to the official tests on the base of which the teams will start to build the following season. And it is from the first 2015 tests that important data come to light with regards to structure, analysis and expectations. The Pramac Racing Team ones are run by the Team Manager Francesco Guidotti.
New Pramac Racing Team Structure
"The team's first rider will be Yonny Hernandez, in the Pramac Racing Team for the second year in a row, after becoming official with Ducati. He will manage the Ducati Desmosedici Gp 14.2 that in the last 5 races of the GP 2014 was driven by Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone. Danilo Pertucci will race with the Ducati Desmosedici Gp 14.1 used by Cal Crutchlow during season 2914. The mission of the Team is to create the conditions for a technical growth of our riders. We hope Yonny Hernandez and Danilo Petrucci will be following Andrea Iannone's steps as he has been protagonist of a huge growth over the past two years in the Pramac Racing".
With the 2014 MotoGP season at an end, it is time for the teams to look back at the year. In a pair of press release interviews, the Movistar Yamaha team reviews 2014 with its riders. First up is Jorge Lorenzo, who takes a frank and open look back at what has been a very difficult season for him. In the interview, he reviews his own performance, where he went wrong in the first part of the season, how he was stronger at the end of the year, and evaluates his main rivals:
Q: The 2014 season is over. Can you evaluate your performance?
JL: “Well, I think the balance is maybe not one of my best seasons since I switched to MotoGP. This has been one of the worst, not so different to 2008. Back then I wasn’t so consistent, I started well but finished pretty bad. Now it’s a bit the opposite; at the beginning was really tough and gradually I got better. During the season either my performance or the bike was improving and at last the results from Sachsenring becoming better and better.”
Q: Which was the worst moment throughout the season?
JL: “The Qatar-Austin-Argentina period, no doubt. There I felt the pressure and I needed to make a good result because the first two races I struggled a lot and we made some big mistakes.”