June 20th, 2013
Why did the factory Yamaha team head to the Motorland Aragon circuit to join Honda and Suzuki at a private test? Was it perhaps to give Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi their first taste of the seamless gearbox Yamaha have been developing, to counter Honda's advantage? That is the question which many fans have been asking, and in recent days - and weeks - I have been inundated with questions about the seamless gearbox. Well, question, singular, actually, as it all boils down to just the one: When will Yamaha finally start to race their seamless gearbox?
It is a question I have been trying to pursue since the start of the season, since rumors first emerged that they may have used the gearbox at the first race of the year. All inquiries I made, at all levels of the Yamaha organization, received the same answers: Yes, Yamaha is developing a seamless gearbox, and is testing it back in Japan. No, Yamaha has not yet raced it, and has no plans to race it. And no, it is not yet ready to be tested.
Press releases from the factory Yamaha, Repsol Honda, LCR Honda and Gresini Honda teams from Aragon
Jorge Lorenzo has topped the timesheets on the second day of the private test at Aragon, smashing Casey Stoner's pole record at the circuit in the process. Lorenzo lapped the Spanish track nearly four tenths faster than the time set by Stoner in 2011, the factory Yamaha man continuing the work on set up he had tried at Barcelona.
Marc Marquez also got under Casey Stoner's pole record, though only by a fraction. Marquez spent his first full day testing working on his 2013 machine, and did not lap on the 2014 bike. Dani Pedrosa did lap on the 2014 machine, though he only put in 9 laps on the machine. According to MCN's Matthew Birt, who is present at the test, Pedrosa rejected the idea of using the 2014 chassis at Assen, as it was not a clear step forward. Pedrosa did not get under the pole record, but he was lapping faster than the race lap record.
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.
When will Valentino Rossi win again?
It’s the question you get asked half a dozen times a race weekend, usually by expectant Rossi fans, hoping for a positive answer: when is Valentino going to win a race?
The answer is obvious: I don’t know. But when you follow that with an offhand remark, suggesting that maybe he won’t win another MotoGP race, their faces collapse into gloom.
Honda's decision to skip the MotoGP test at Barcelona has so far not paid off. The first day of their three-day test at the Motorland Aragon circuit was an absolute washout, with torrential rain forcing the Honda riders to spend almost all day in the garages. Only Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista put in a few laps, Bradl shaking down the 2014 version of the RC213V which Honda has brought to the test, and Bautista checking a few things from Barcelona. Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez did not venture out on track.
Instead, Honda took the time to introduce the 2014 version of the RC213V they are planning to test in Aragon. The bike is completely new, including a new engine and chassis, the engine ready to manage the reduced fuel allowance (cut from 21 to 20 liters) to be introduced at the request of the MSMA from next year. The plan is that if Pedrosa and Marquez prefer the bike to their current machine, they could get the machine early, perhaps as early as the next race, at least as far as the chassis is concerned.
Press releases from some of the MotoGP teams after the test at Barcelona:
Pity poor Jorge Lorenzo. Once again he comes to a test and tops the timesheets, and everyone is talking about someone else. This time, though, he will probably not mind, as he was not really out for glory at the test, just to work on settings before heading to the next test at Aragon on Wednesday. If it isn't rained off that is.
Lorenzo chose to skip the morning session, preferring to rest after an impressive win on Sunday, but once underway he was quickly up to speed hitting the top three after just a couple of laps, and ending the day on top. The Factory Yamaha man had been working on set up, but had also tested a new fuel tank. The new tank does not change the weight balance from the current version used by the factory riders, but it does have a slightly different shape to fit under the seat more comfortably and allow Lorenzo to position himself better on the bike.
Jorge Lorenzo has topped the timesheets at the end of the Barcelona MotoGP test, but the talking point of the test was Suzuki. On its first public run out, Randy de Puniet clocked a time of 1'42.676, just over three quarters of a second off the time set by Lorenzo, an impressive debut.
Nicky Hayden set the second fastest time, close behind Lorenzo and ahead of Stefan Bradl. Both Hayden and Dovizioso ran back-to-back tests with the existing Ducati GP13 and the lab bike, but neither man was convinced that the lab bike was a step forward. Cal Crutchlow took 5th spot, having spent the day working on the start of the race, as had his teammate Bradley Smith. Both men had made several exits with a completely full tank, to work on improving the first eight or so laps of the race, the point at which the Yamaha riders are struggling.
The Montmelo circuit just outside of Barcelona is a hive of activity, as all but the Repsol and Gresini Honda teams take to the track. As of 2pm, Stefan Bradl was the fastest man on track, just a fraction quicker than Nicky Hayden and late arrival Jorge Lorenzo, while Andrea Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi are all within three tenths of Bradl's time.
Much of the interest was around the Suzuki garage, where Randy de Puniet made his debut on the bike, after it had been given a shakedown by Nobu Aoki. So far, and some 15 laps in, De Puniet has lapped at 1:44.089, which is some 1.8 seconds off the time of Bradl. In comparison, De Puniet did a 1'43.186 during qualifying on the Aprilia ART machine he has been riding so far this year.
While Jorge Lorenzo was a late arrival, choosing to get some rest in the morning after a hard race yesterday, Bradley Smith left the track early. The Tech 3 man is scheduled to have surgery tonight to repair his little finger, and fix the scaphoid in his left wrist, damage from his crash at Mugello.
Times as of 2pm
Official confirmation of Suzuki's return to Grand Prix racing has come at last. This morning, Suzuki issued a press release announcing that they will be back in MotoGP. The bad news is that they will not return until 2015, deciding instead to spend a year developing the bike before mounting a serious challenge in the series in 2015.
As already reported, Davide Brivio is confirmed as the manager of Suzuki's team, while Randy De Puniet has been officially announced as the development rider for the bike. Nobuatsu Aoki will continue to do a lot of the donkey work in testing, in much the same role as Franco Battaini at Ducati. Both are capable riders willing to grind out the miles and test that everything is working correctly, while De Puniet, like Michele Pirro at Ducati, will try to get the bike up to race speed, to see where its weaknesses lie.
The decision to wait until 2015 makes decisions for riders a little more complex. Riders in the running for the Suzuki seat were informed last week of Suzuki's decision, giving them time to look for alternatives.
Jorge Lorenzo ran a perfect race at Barcelona. Well, not quite perfect, he told veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes that he made just a single mistake. 'Luckily nobody saw it, and you cannot see it on the data,' Lorenzo said. After a difficult qualifying session, Lorenzo put the hammer down from the start, attacking Dani Pedrosa aggressively into Turn 1 once again, just like in Mugello, and then pushing hard all race long, despite a front tire that kept threatening to let go.
So how did he do it? How did he pull off a win when most people were convinced that Pedrosa had the win in the bag? Two factors: his own mental strength, and a radical and inspired set up change during warm up, in preparation for a hot race with no grip. Wilco Zeelenberg, Lorenzo's team manager, explained to me exactly what they had done. "We created a lot less pressure on the front of the bike," the Dutchman explained. "That's not what you would normally do, but because you know you won't be able to do 1'42s all race, you know you don't need the best set up."
The extreme temperatures had caused everyone problems, and Lorenzo's crew, led by Ramon Forcada, had elected to give Lorenzo more feeling, sacrificing grip. "If you look at the lap times, they bring tears to your eyes. I mean, if Dani [Pedrosa] can qualifying in 1'40.8, and he ends up lapping at 1'43 pace, then there's something wrong. It means everybody is riding on eggshells." Lorenzo himself was uncertain of the revised set up. Lorenzo had told Zeelenberg that he wasn't sure that he was really any quicker, but he could get into the corner with a lot more confidence. "That didn't give him any advantage in terms of lap time, but it meant he knew he could go exactly this far, and no further," Zeelenberg explained.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after Sunday's GP de Catalunya at Barcelona:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's GP de Catalunya at Barcelona:
Summary and results of MotoGP race: