Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the final day of testing at Qatar:
Aleix Espargaro has stamped his authority on the final day of the test for non-factory teams at Qatar, blitzing to a remarkable time of 1'54.874 on the Open Forward Yamaha, less than two tenths off the pole position set by Jorge Lorenzo at last year's race. Aleix led an Espargaro 1-2 and a Yamaha clean sweep, ending just ahead of brother Pol on the Tech 3 Yamaha, and fifteen hundredths ahead of the second Monster Tech 3 Yamaha of Bradley Smith.
It was not all good news for the Espargaro brothers, however. Pol crashed towards the end of the evening, falling heavily and breaking his left collarbone. The Spaniard is flying to Barcelona tonight and will undergo surgery to fix the collarbone, in an attempt to be fit for the season opener which takes place in two weeks' time. Pol was not the only rider to crash; both Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista had offs, though neither rider suffered any injury.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams at the second day of the final test at Qatar:
After the Yamahas took the honors on the first day of the Qatar MotoGP test, on Saturday, it was the turn of the Hondas to shine. Alvaro Bautista set a fast time early on during the test, which was good enough stay at the top of the timesheet for the rest of the session. Stefan Bradl grabbed the second spot behind the Go&Fun Gresini Honda of Bautista, the LCR Honda man three tenths slower than the Spaniard. Aleix Espargaro once again led the Yamaha charge with a late lap, but though he came within a tenth of the time of Bradl, he was nearly four tenths off the pace set by Bautista.
Bradley Smith led the Monster Tech 3 team, just behind Aleix Espargaro but once again frustrated at not being the fastest Yamaha. Once again, however, Smith's pace was consistently fast, posting a lot of laps in the high 1'55s and very low 1'56s. Tech 3 teammate Pol Espargaro was 5th, a quarter of a second behind Smith and seven tenths off the pace of Bautista, while Andrea Iannone was the first of the Ducatis on the timesheet, the last rider to get within a second of the time of Bautista.
While their factory counterparts are on aircraft heading back from Phillip Island, everyone not on a factory team (that's factory, small F, not Factory Option, capital F capital O) have spent the day at their own test at Qatar. As always, the first day back at the desert track means a horribly dusty surface, which led a large group of riders to sit out the first hour or so of the test. Once the more eager of the riders - none more so than Danilo Petrucci, keen to get back on a bike for the first time after the winter layoff - had cleaned the track a little, and the track had cooled after the sun had gone down, the full pack headed out for the final test before the season started.
It came as no surprise to see Aleix Espargaro topping the timesheets a the end of the day. The NGM Forward rider has been fast all pre-season, Espargaro extracting every last ounce of performance from the Forward Yamaha, taking full advantage of the softer rear tire made available to the Open class machines (and now nicely color-coded to make tire choice more visible.) There is however no more mention of FTR in the Forward garage, the bikes appearing as Forward Yamahas on the entry list, and Colin Edwards admitting to Motorcycle News that he did not expect to see a chassis from FTR this year. The rumors of unpaid bills appear to have some weight behind them, despite the official denial issued by FTR in February.
Marc Marquez will not ride at the Phillip Island test, scheduled for next week, and will only return to riding at the first race of the season at Qatar. After meeting with Dr Xavier Mir in Barcelona today, Marquez was told it would be better to rest and recuperate as fully as possible before attempting to ride a MotoGP bike again.
The decision to wait until the race at Qatar also settles a potential argument over testing at Phillip Island and Qatar. HRC had been contemplating sending Marquez to test with the satellite and Open class riders at Qatar, rather than the factory riders at Phillip Island, where they are testing tires for Bridgestone. Honda asked Race Direction for permission to allow Marquez to test at Qatar, but Yamaha and Ducati lodged an objection.
The split between factory and non-factory testing had been agreed at the end of last year, to give Bridgestone a chance to test tires, but Yamaha and Ducati feared that Marquez would gain an unfair advantage if he was allowed to test at Qatar just a week ahead of the season opener. If Marquez was to test at Qatar, Yamaha said, then Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi would test at Qatar as well, abandoning the tire test.
The FIM has today released the final, official version of the 2014 MotoGP calendar. As expected, the Brazil round has been dropped, after it became clear that construction work at the Autodromo Nelson Piquet in Brasilia would not be completed in time for the September round. To ease the congestion in that part of the season, the date of the Aragon round has now been pushed back a week, and will take place on 28th September, the date originally scheduled for Brazil.
The dropping of the Brazil round had been expected almost from the moment it was placed on the schedule. There were serious doubts that the circuit would be able to make the necessary changes in time for September 2014, and teams were informed of the doubts which Dorna and IRTA had. The inclusion of Brazil was a statement of intent, with both Dorna and the manufacturers keen to return to South America, as both Brazil and Argentina are key markets. Actually racing in Brazil will depend one of the circuits still in the country being able to make the necessary modifications to make it safe enough for Grand Prix motorcycles.
Below is the official, finalized version of the 2014 MotoGP calendar:
The first major change to the 2014 MotoGP schedule has been announced. Though the dates remain the same, the order of the Asian flyaway triple header has been reshuffled, with Sepang moving from first of the three to last. The Grand Prix classes will now head to Japan first, for the Japanese GP at Motegi on 12th October, before heading south to Australia for the Phillip Island round a week later, on 19th October. The weekend after that the MotoGP paddock visits Malaysia, for the last of the three overseas races at Sepang on 26th October.
The change is unlikely to be the last. It is widely anticipated that the new track in Brasilia will not be ready for the Brazilian round of MotoGP on 28th September, and that the Motorland Aragon race, due to take place on 21st September, will be rescheduled for a week later. That decision will not take place for some time, however, as the Autodromo Brasilia Nelson Piquet will be given a few more months before the mandatory circuit homologation inspection.
Below is the updated, and still provisional, 2014 MotoGP calendar, with changes highlighted in bold. You can always find the latest, most up-to-date version including all changes on this page.
The 2014 MotoGP calendar:
2014 World Superbike, World Supersport and FIM Superstock 1000 calendar (provisional)
The FIM have today released the provisional version of the MotoGP calendar for 2014. As expected, there are few surprises: with the addition of Argentina and Brazil, there will be nineteen races on the calendar, though Brazil is not expected to be ready to host a race next year, the event likely to be postponed until 2015. Laguna Seca is gone from the calendar, leaving just two US races on for 2014. And once again, there are four Spanish rounds on for next season, although Jerez is marked subject to contract.
The season opens with the night race in Qatar on March 23rd, though this decision is likely to face criticism from the riders. Moving the race two weeks earlier increases the risk of the evening dew which settles on the surface hitting earlier, while the bikes are still out on track. That was the case in previous years, when the race was held earlier, with some major crashes as a result. The dew settles quickly and is impossible to see under the lights, but renders the asphalt extremely slippery within a very short period.
With the 2013 MotoGP season at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look back and examine the engine usage for the teams and riders. In 2012, with the engine durability regulations in their third full season, the factories appeared to have the situation pretty much under control. The only excitement arose when something unexpected happened, such as Jorge Lorenzo have an engine lunch itself after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at Assen last year.
For 2013, the engine allocation was reduced from 6 to 5 per season. Each rider now has 5 engines to last the entire season, for use in all timed practice sessions during each race weekend. With three seasons already under their belt, no real drama was expected, yet that is not quite how it has turned out. While Honda and Ducati are right on course to last the season, Yamaha find themselves unexpectedly struggling. An unidentified design flaw has seen Yamaha losing engines too rapidly for comfort. Both factory Yamaha men have had an engine withdrawn, while there are question marks over the life left in one engine each allocated to Valentino Rossi and the two Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders.
"This is the reality," factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso told the media after finishing 7th at Qatar, some 24 seconds off the pace of the winner, Jorge Lorenzo. Hopes had been raised on Saturday night, after the Italian had qualified in fourth, posting a flying lap within half a second of polesitter Lorenzo. While Dovizioso's qualifying performance had been strong, he had at the time warned against too much optimism. The Desmosedici is good on new tires, but as they begin to wear, the chronic understeer which has plagued the Ducati since, well, probably since the beginning of the 800cc era, and maybe even well before that, rears its ugly head and makes posting competitively fast laps nigh on impossible.
The problem appears to be twofold. Firstly, a chassis issue, which is a mixture of weight distribution, gearbox output shaft layout, frame geometry and, to a lesser extent, chassis flexibility. And secondly, a problem with engine response, an issue which is down in part to electronics, and in part to Ducati still using just a single injector per throttle body. The weight distribution problem causes the bike to want to run wide at corners, making it hard to keep it on line; the throttle response issue just makes this worse, with the throttle either very harsh and aggressive, and difficult to control, or, when the revised electronics package is used to soften power delivery, makes the throttle response feel remote, and removes the connection between throttle and drive from the rear wheel.