With everyone slowly recovering from the shock of the announcement that Bridgestone is pulling out of MotoGP at the end of the 2015 season, it is easy to forget that we are here for a motorcycle race. The roar of Grand Prix machinery hurtling around the beautiful Circuito de Jerez on a glorious Andalusian morning soon dispelled thoughts of 2016, and concentrated minds on what is to come on Sunday.
The heat of the afternoon, though, made thinking tough, and riding even tougher. Track temperatures rose to over 50°, robbing the circuit of even more grip, and making it greasier than ever. Rider consensus was that the track was in pretty good shape, but when it's this hot, the already low-grip surface of Jerez becomes very difficult to ride. That meant that the number of riders who managed to improve their times in FP2 in all three classes were limited.
The Marc VDS Racing team is considering moving up to MotoGP for the 2015 season. Team manager Michael Bartholémy has started the process which could lead to a MotoGP entry for next season.
A switch to MotoGP is far from being a foregone conclusion, Bartholémy was keen to emphasize. 'This is the first step in a long, political process,' he said. The first stage would consist of talks with Marc van der Straten, the Belgian brewing magnate who owns the eponymous team, here at Jerez, then again two weeks later at Le Mans.
Bartholémy would also have to liaise with Carmelo Ezpeleta to make sure that there was a grid slot available for the team should they choose to move up to MotoGP. 'The problem at the moment is that we do not have a place on the grid,' Bartholémy said.
Belgian rider Xavier Simeon has headed a sun-drenched second Moto2 free practice session at the Jerez circuit in Spain. The Gresini rider ended proceedings ahead of Sandro Cortese and Takaaki Nakagami in second and third positions. While Nakagami would be happy with his return to form Cortese had a highly turbulent session, twice feeling the anger of other riders after riding slowly on the racing line. First Dominique Aegerter kicked out at the German and then Championship leader Esteve Rabat pushed him with his fist whilst gesticulating wildly.
Rabat eventually calmed down and ended the session in fourth place, however he still held the fastest time of the day from the morning's session and looked consistently quicker than any other rider on track. Aegerter also had to regain his composure and went on to post the fifth fastest time. He was followed by his compatriot Thomas Luthi who was ahead of Simone Corsi, Johann Zarco and the German duo of Marcel Schrotter and Jonas Folger completed the top ten. Maverick Vinales Moto2 education continued with a crash early in the session, this severely limited his race simulation time and perhaps signifies a blip in the initial ease with which he took to the intermediate class.
Marc Marquez has topped the second MotoGP free practice session in Jerez in blistering conditions. As demonstrated in the second Moto3 free practice prior, the increased track temperatures meant that Marquez's fastest lap time of 1.39:757 was half a second slower than the morning's quickest lap set by Aleix Espargaro. The afternoon session did provide a more accurate replication of what conditions should be like during Sunday afternoon's race, the race will be Marquez's 100th Grand Prix and he would love nothing more than to break his Jerez duck and celebrate his milestone, as if he needed and more motivation.
Aleix Espargaro built on his impressive FP1 showing and finished with the second fastest time, two tenths behind his compatriot Marquez. Andrea Dovizioso made use of the super-soft rear tyre available to him to end up in third position ahead of the decidedly uncomfortable Yamaha pairing of Valentino Rossi and a Jorge Lorenzo. Both riders appear to have their work cut out to match the race-pace of Marquez.
Dani Pedrosa had to settle for the sixth fastest time as the Repsol Honda rider's under whelming 2014 form continued. He will be left scratching his head wondering what he has to do to bridge the gap to Marquez at the head of the field. Alvaro Bautista was seventh and made it five Spaniards in the top ten ahead of fellow satellite Honda rider Stefan Bradl, Andrea Iannone and Nicky Hayden who completed the top ten aboard his 'Open' Honda machinery.
The Jerez round of MotoGP could be the very last race for Colin Edwards. The Texas Tornado could relinquish his place in MotoGP directly after the Spanish race, to make way for another rider.
NGM Forward team boss Giovanni Cuzari told Italian Sky TV that there would be a meeting on Monday with Edwards to discuss his future with the team. Forward's sponsors are reportedly not happy with having Aleix Espargaro circulating at the front, while Edwards has been unable to match the pace of his teammate.
Edwards has been unhappy with the Yamaha chassis from the very beginning, and had hoped to receive a chassis from FTR, which Forward had originally intended to race for 2014. However, Forward is alleged not to have paid FTR for the chassis, and the British chassis builder has refused to supply the frames, which are rumored to be now sitting idly in the company's headquarters in Buckingham.
Efren Vazquez topped the timesheets for the second Moto3 free practice session as both ambient and track temperatures soared. The baking lunch-time sun saw track temperatures rise to more than forty degrees Celsius and meant that the Spaniard's time of 1:47.725 was almost half a second slower than Isaac Vinales' morning benchmark. Romano Fenati set the second fastest time ahead of Mahindra's Miguel Oliveira and Championship leader Jack Miller, who would both be happy to have found some semblance of race pace following disappointing initial practice sessions.
Estrella Galicia riders Alex Marquez and Alex Rins ended proceedings in fifth and sixth places and as the top Hondas. John McPhee put in an encouraging performance to post the seventh quickest lap ahead of Calvo team mates Isaac Vinales and Jakub Kornfeil. Argentinean wild card rider Gabriel Rodrigo, riding for Aleix Espargaro's CEV Moto3 team, impressively completed the top ten placing's. Fellow wild card rider Maria Herrera also put in an eye-catching performance to end the session in thirteenth place after running in the top ten throughout.
Tito Rabat has continued his strong 2014 form to head the opening Moto2 Free Practice session at Jerez despite taking a relatively low speed tumble late in proceedings. He posted a benchmark time of 1:43.486, a mere three tenths shy of the current circuit race lap record. Rabat also made sure it a clean sweep of Spanish front-runners across the classes for the Friday morning sessions. It was a Marc VDS Racing 1-2 as Rabat's team mate Mika Kallio snared second place and looked the only rider able to match the Championship leader's pace consistently throughout.
Increasingly impressive youngster Jonas Folger posted the third fastest time ahead of Xavier Simeon and fellow German youngster Sandro Cortese. Nico Terol managed to find some pace after a difficult start to the season thus far registering the sixth quickest lap ahead of Thomas Luthi, rookie sensation Maverick Vinales, his team mate Luis Salom and Takaaki Nakagami rounded out the top ten.
The opening MotoGP practice session for the Jerez Grand Prix weekend in Spain was impressively headed by 'Open' class rider Aleix Espargaro. The Spaniard reveled in glorious morning conditions and extracted every ounce of grip from his super-soft Bridgestone tyres to post a time of 1:39.357, some two tenths quicker than Jorge Lorenzo's race lap record from last year. Lorenzo ended the session in second place ahead of Marc Marquez, who amazingly has never taken victory at the Jerez circuit in any class of GP racing.
Dani Pedrosa made it an all-Spaniard top four finishing the session ahead of Valentino Rossi in fifth. Rossi is the most successful rider ever at Jerez with eight wins in total, six of those coming in the premier class, he would be looking to improve his pace with a view to grow that record come Sunday. Alvaro Bautista made it five Spaniards in the top six ahead of the Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso, Stefan Bradl, Yonny Hernandez and Bradley Smith completed the top ten. Andrea Iannone was the only rider to crash, late in the session, thankfully he walked away perfectly OK.
Isaac Vinales has topped the timesheets in the opening Moto3 practice at the Jerez circuit in Spain. The local rider finished the session with a time of 1:47.388 which put him three tenths clear of fellow Spaniard Alex Marquez. Vinales' Calvo KTM teammate Jakub Kornfeil rounded out the top three placing's for the morning session. Alex Rins and last round's victor Romano Fenati took fourth and fifth places respectively as Efren Vazquez, Niklas Ajo, Brad Binder, Philipp Oettl and Danny Kent completed the top 10.
Championship leader Jack Miller had to settle for a disappointing twelfth place and will look to quickly rediscover his Jerez testing pace in the day's remaining session.
2014 Jerez MotoGP Thursday Round Up: On Bridgestone's Withdrawal, Slower Lap Times, And Stopping Marquez
There's a race on Sunday, but all the talk is of 2016. Why the seemingly absurd preoccupation with a date that is so ridiculously distant in the future? Because from 2016, MotoGP will have a new tire supplier, after Bridgestone announced they will be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of 2015. Why does this matter? Because tires are the single most important component of a motorcycle, and determine the performance of a machine to a massive extent. No matter how much power your engine produces, if you can't get it to the ground, it becomes irrelevant. No matter how powerful your brakes, if the front tire collapses when you squeeze the front lever, you won't be doing much slowing down. Even if you can brake and accelerate as much as you like, if the bike wanders around like drunken poodle on a skateboard when you tip it into the corner, your laptimes won't be up to much.
It is hard to overstate just exactly how important tires are to motorcycle performance. Why is Aleix Espargaro so consistently fast during qualifying, on a bike that is two years old and with an engine under strict control by Yamaha? Because the Open class entries have a softer rear tire available, and that tire itself is worth half a second or more. That is not to belittle the elder Espargaro's performance, as clearly, he is riding exceptionally well, but the softer rear tire makes a big, big difference.
Another example: during the press conference today, Marc Marquez was asked by Thomas Baujard of the excellent French magazine Moto Journal about how he manages to enter the corners on the front wheel, and tip his Repsol Honda into the turn while the rear wheel is still in the air. It looks spectacular, and seems to defy the laws of physics. Yet Marquez manages it, and manages it consistently.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams and Dunlop ahead of this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez:
Bridgestone is to add an extra compound of front tire for MotoGP riders to choose from. After complaints from the teams over problems at some circuits, Bridgestone has responded by expanding the number of front tires allowed for each rider from 9 to 10, and adding an extra compound of front tire to help deal with differing conditions.
The change to the allocation had long been a wish of the MotoGP riders. Though Bridgestone's two selected compounds performed well under most conditions, a sudden drop in temperatures sometimes left riders and teams struggling. The problem was most pronounced in the morning sessions at circuits like Valencia and Aragon, where temperatures can be very cold. There were several front end crashes in those morning sessions, as tires struggled to get up to temperature. Adding a softer tire should make the morning practice sessions safer, and allow teams to work on setup without compromising safety.
Press releases from some of the World Superbike teams after the latest test at Jerez: