Donington, Great Britain
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.
MotoGP’s young guns and old dogs
That Qatar race was pretty special and not only because it was hugely entertaining, but because one of the riders battling for victory was almost old enough to be the other’s dad.
Valentino Rossi turned 35 in February, just a few days before Marc Márquez hit 21. That’s an age difference of 14 years, which isn’t something that happens very often in professional sport; in fact, has it ever happened before in motorcycle Grand Prix racing?
The question prompted me to trawl through my history books for evidence of a similar generation gap at the sharp end of premier-class GPs.
2014 World Superbike, World Supersport and FIM Superstock 1000 calendar (provisional)
At long last, the FIM and Dorna have released a calendar for the World Superbike and World Supersport classes for 2014. The calendar features fourteen World Superbike events, but it is still very much a provisional list, with three of the fourteen still subject to contract, and the final race still marked as to be confirmed, with neither the location nor the country known.
The season kicks off as always in Australia, the World Superbike and World Supersport classes headed to the Phillip Island circuit for the opener on 23rd of February. There follows another WSBK tradition: the interminable wait for round 2. In 2014, there are seven weeks between the first and second rounds, with the second event taking place at the Motorland Aragon circuit just outside of Alcañiz. The WSBK circus then takes off for a tour through Europe, heading to Assen, Imola and Donington Park, before heading overseas again to Sepang, and a Malaysian round. Two rounds in Europ follow, at Misano and Portimao, before the World Superbike class heads to Laguna Seca, taking the slot vacated by the MotoGP class.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the races at Donington Park:
The reduced grid in World Superbike really shows up when one or two riders are injured and cannot race. Losing both Leon Haslam and Carlos Checa from the competition today hammered home the reasoning behind Dorna's proposed financial limiting, especially after the predictable departure of Effenbert Liberty Racing. Seventeen riders competed for points in the second race, meaning only two of them wouldn't score points. With the good weather, there were luckily very few DNFs, which would have made it look even worse. When MotoGP was in this position, defibrillators were charged, flags were run up poles, mourners wailed and changes were forced through for the good of the sport. World Superbike is getting close to this stage and something needs to be done.
The ever-reducing grid was dealt another blow for race two as Carlos Checa decided, after his poor performance this morning, to sit the second race out, joining Leon Haslam on the scratch bench.
World Supersport benefits from the sheer volume of riders on near equal machinery and varying levels of skill. Normally, this means that the racing is cut and thrust and close, front to back.
Leon Haslam was withdrawn from the race by his team. It was obvious Haslam wanted to race, but cooler heads prevailed, taking the decision away from the rider. The good weather we were promised turned up and gave us the closest to a processional race that Superbikes can give us.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams and the series organizer after qualifying at Donington Park:
Jules Cluzel set the outright lap record at Donington last year with a 1'30.931. With the conditions as good and the competition as high, the question was how many would be able to beat it today.
Glorious English sunshine ensured that Superpole would come down to the riders and their bikes, without the added chaotic element weather can bring.
In predictable fashion, Tom Sykes once again puts a gap between himself and the rest as he edges ever closer to the outright lap record. Once the qualifier tyres go on, that gap should disappear altogether. One second covers from second to thirteenth place, with Marco Melandri and Jonathan Rea managing to beat the Aprilias.
Once again, Sam Lowes put himself on the top of the timing sheet ahead of Kenan Sofuoglu, and did so with an outright lap record of 1'30.903, three tenths quicker than that set by Jules Cluzel last year in qualifying. Jack Kennedy continues his good qualifying form, while title contenders Fabien Foret and Michael Van Der Mark languished in 23rd and 10th respectively.