The FIM today issued a revised version of the 2013 MotoGP calendar. The new calendar is only a minor update to the initial calendar issued on September 21st, with only one real change, the switching of the Sachsenring to a week earlier. That move was forced on the FIM, as Formula One had scheduled the Grand Prix of Germany at the Nurburgring for the same date. Holding an F1 race and a MotoGP race in the same country and on the same date was not a viable situation, and so the Sachsenring race was moved.
The other update to the calendar was not a change, but a confirmation. The Grand Prix of the Americas has been confirmed as taking place on April 21st, at the brand new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. That had been widely expected, but could not be confirmed until contracts were signed. The continuing dispute between the Circuit of the Americas and Kevin Schwantz over the rights to organize the Austin round of MotoGP will not affect the scheduling of the race.
Below is the MotoGP calendar for 2013:
2013 MotoGP Provisional Calendar Leaked: 3 US Rounds, 4 Spanish Rounds, 2 Italian Rounds, And Late March Start
The provisional MotoGP calendar has taken a little longer than normal to appear. An initial calendar had been expected at Brno in late August, but no calendar was forthcoming at the Czech Grand Prix. The next rumored date for the calendar to be released was the weekend of the Misano round of MotoGP, but once the paddock assembled at Misano, it became apparent it would emerge a few days later - MotoMatters.com was told by an IRTA representative that the calendar would be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday this week. On Tuesday, the Austin Statesman newspaper reported that the calendar would be out on Friday, but the excessive enthusiasm of Loris Capirossi saw the former racer and current MotoGP safety advisor leak the 2013 calendar on his Twitter page on Thursday night.
After two days mostly lost to rain, Andrea Iannone finally got to spend some serious time on board the factory Ducati at Mugello, as the Italian completed a three-day test generally regarded as an audition for Ducati Junior team to be run by Pramac in 2013. Iannone made good use of his time, eventually lapping the iconic Italian circuit in 1'48.3, a time that would have been fast enough to qualify him in 10th place on the grid for this year's race, and two tenths faster than Valentino Rossi's qualifying time. Though the time was impressive, it was still some way off the time set by Nicky Hayden, the Factory Ducati man posting a time of 1'47.671 during qualifying for the Mugello race. But Hayden was not the fastest Ducati at Mugello back in July: Hector Barbera lapped in 1'47.565, a quarter of a second off the pole time set by Dani Pedrosa. But for Iannone to be lapping within a second of the pole on just his first proper test with the Ducati team is impressive.
It has been an intense week or so for speculation about the next and biggest cog in MotoGP's Silly Season merry-go-round. The question of Valentino Rossi's future has filled the media, with multiple sometimes conflicting stories appearing in the international press. That Rossi should dominate the headlines is logical. After all, with Casey Stoner retiring, and the futures of Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez all settled, Rossi's decision will determine not just where he lands, but to a massive degree who will fill the rest of the seats in MotoGP next year.
Rossi's choice is fairly straightforward: he can elect to stay at Ducati and hope that Filippo Preziosi can provide him with a competitive bike soon; he can take up the offer he is believed to have from Yamaha to join the factory team; or he can accept a ride with a satellite Honda team aboard a full-factory RC213V. During his daily briefing with the press at each race weekend, Rossi has suggested that his primary focus is to stay with Ducati and make the Desmosedici competitive. Yet all of the news stories in the past 10 days have been suggesting that Rossi is close to signing a deal with Yamaha, with the sponsors backing the deal varying depending on the source.
Bridgestone's traditional post-race press release after Mugello, touching on the subject of tire choice at the Italian track:
Andrea Iannone started the 2012 season being as fast as he was in the first two seasons of Moto2, but the Italian rider was also close to disaster too often and was left with no chances of winning the title against Toni Elías in 2010 or Stefan Bradl in 2011.
Despite unpromising results in the past, the flying Italian is showing a different attitude in 2012. Different enough to be finishing every race this current season until the last Grand Prix in Germany, where the Speed Up rider crashed but rejoined the race to finish 17th with no points.
Back in 2010, Iannone’s superlative first victory on the Speed UP at Mugello even cast the shadow of cheating over his Speed Up bike, but telemetry data clearly showed then that Iannone was in fact impressively faster in corner speed than the rest.
After a nightmare season in 2011 riding a Suter, Iannone was back on the Speed Up for 2012, and part of his success may be found in his growing riding control on the limit, but also in getting better at calculating a racing strategy and the help of a bike he looks very comfortable racing on. Coming to Mugello, it was to be expected to see Iannone in front.
After Sandro Cortese had won the Moto3 race in Germany the week before, it was logical to expect more of the same from the championship leader at the ultra fast racetrack of Mugello. Even more so if you believe the not yet fully proven myth of KTM's supersonic engines, as they have appeared to be at some tracks this in this first season of Moto3.
After Viñales' wet nightmare at the Sachsenring just a few days ago - unable to gain even a single point in the race, something very difficult to understand for such a road racing talent as Viñales has already demonstrated he is-, the Spaniard on the FTR Honda looked to be ready to fight for victory again at a dry Mugello.
Viñales was the fastest rider on the track during the free practice sessions, gradually getting closer to Bradley Smith's best pole position in 2009 with the Aprilia 125 two stroke. The British rider's fastest lap time back in 2009 -1'58.134- was finally beaten by Viñales' 1'57.980 during qualifying.
After the test on Monday, Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi spoke to reporters about the new parts and new engine which Valentino Rossi had been testing during the day. The test on the new bike came to a premature end, when an electronics failure caused Rossi to crash in Correntaio early in the afternoon. The failure was related to an electronics component failing, though it is not clear exactly what happened. With the ECU having been relocated from below the instrument panel to the front of the tank unit - the same location as on the Yamaha M1 - the finger of suspicion points at heat from the engine creating a problem for one of the components, though Preziosi would not specify exactly where the failure occurred.
Below is what Preziosi had to tell reporters, including the TV interview with Dorna:
Filippo Preziosi: Today we had half a test with Valentino, but because unfortunately we had a hardware problem, for safety reasons we stopped this test, so we received just half of the information we need. It was a good test for Nicky, because he tested a lot of interesting things, and at the end he was quite happy. To be honest all of Nicky's weekend was good. Valentino did a wonderful race, starting unfortunately from the back but the pace was really good. Overall, it was a really nice weekend.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the test at Mugello:
Jorge Lorenzo was the fastest man of the day at the post-race test at Mugello, continuing where he left off on Sunday. Lorenzo ended just ahead of the Repsol Hondas of Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner, both men having set their fastest time on the 2012 version of the RC213V, rather than the new version which Honda had brought. Pedrosa only managed three laps on the new bike before a gearchange mistake caused him to crash in the final corner, putting an end to further testing on the bike. Nicky Hayden was 4th quickest, just three tenths behind Lorenzo, and fractionally faster than Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso, while Stefan Bradl ended the day 7th quickest.
Valentino Rossi ended the session in 10th, but his testing day was disrupted when an electronics fault on the new engine caused him to crash at Correntaio. That meant Rossi lost half a day on the revised engine, while engineers tried to track down the cause of the mistake. The changes to the weight distribution, relocating the fuel pod and electronics package, had made a difference, according to the Italian.
Times at 4pm:
Test times at 1pm:
Testing has been underway now for a couple of hours at Mugello, with 16 riders from the MotoGP class staying on at the Italian track. Busiest factory will be Honda, with HRC having brought both a brand new bike - a version of the RC213V originally planned to be raced during the 2013 season, but brought forward to see if it provides a cure for the problems Honda is encountering with the new Bridgestone tires - as well as a new spec engine, aimed at improving rideability. They will also be working on one or two solutions to the chatter they have with the current bike.
Ducati also have a new engine to test, though the modifications are very minor. This is the driveability improvement package which Ducati is hoping will make the Desmosedici's power delivery easier to control, and also easier on the tires. There are also one or two modifications to the chassis, though not a new frame itself. This is said to change the weight distribution of the bike in an attempt to help the understeer which is still the GP12's biggest problem.
Great tracks produce great racing, even in the MotoGP class, where the combination of fuel limits, extremely advanced electronics and stiff Bridgestone tires mean that the way to win races is by being absolutely inch-perfect on every lap. And Mugello is a great track, there is no doubt of that, despite the fact that the usual Mugello atmosphere had been muted by a combination of a dismal Italian economy and sky-high ticket prices at the circuit, the only way for the circuit to recoup some of the sanctioning fee it must pay Dorna to run the race. The hillsides were very sparsely populated, perhaps in part a result of the total Spanish domination of qualifying, putting three Spaniards on the front row in MotoGP, and another two on the Moto3 and Moto2 poles as well.
The Italian fans that stayed away missed not only some great races, but also some sterling performances from local Italian riders. There were Italians on the podium in all three classes, even one Italian winner, Andrea Iannone winning the Moto2 race. The people sitting at home who had intended to fill those empty grandstands may well have regretted not going.