Silverstone, Great Britain
Mike Leitner Interview: Pedrosa's Crew Chief Talks Race Strategy, The Dangers Of Starts, And Tires Past And Future
Dani Pedrosa has been with his crew chief Mike Leitner for over ten years now, since Pedrosa's first season in the 250cc class in 2004. Pedrosa and Leitner have been a strong partnership, with the Austrian helping Pedrosa win two world championships and 41 victories in the two classes they have been together.
The arrival of Marc Marquez into MotoGP has had a profound impact both inside and outside the Repsol Honda team. Marquez' natural speed has forced Pedrosa and his crew to rethink their approach to the races, to try to match the pace of Pedrosa's young teammate. At the beginning of the season, Pedrosa complained a number of times that he felt the revised strategy taken by Leitner was not working as hoped, and that had left him unable to compete.
Though Pedrosa's competitiveness has improved, the Spaniard being the first person to beat his teammate with victory at Brno, it has still left tension in Pedrosa's garage. Rumors are circulating that Pedrosa would like to drop Leitner and change his crew chief.
Intrigued by the question of what exactly had changed in Pedrosa's race strategy, we spoke to his crew chief Mike Leitner. The resulting conversation gave a fascinating insight into race strategy, and how teams approach each MotoGP race. Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP.
Silly Season Round Up: The MotoGP Merry-Go-Round, Moto2 And Moto3 Madness, And Guessing At The 2015 Calendar
The period since the MotoGP circus rolled up at Silverstone has been pretty frantic. Almost as soon as the teams and riders arrived in the UK, the negotiations over 2015 and beyond started. The developments around Gresini's impending switch to Aprilia triggered a further round of haggling and fundraising, with several teams and riders trying to cover all the possible permutations of the Honda RC213V becoming available. The submission date for the Moto2 and Moto3 entries intensified the bargaining over rider placements, the field split into those who must pay, and those who will be paid. Time for a quick round up of all that has happened.
The most pressing problem in MotoGP at the moment is the situation around Scott Redding and the Honda RC213V being abandoned by Gresini. Where that bike goes depends on just a single factor: money. Aspar is interested in the bike, but cannot raise the extra money it would cost over and above the cost of a Honda RCV1000R. Marc VDS Racing is in a desperate scramble to find the last 1.9 million euros they need to plug the gap in their budget if they are to move up to MotoGP. LCR Honda could perhaps find the budget to put Redding alongside Cal Crutchlow, and having two British riders would greatly please CWM FX, the British foreign exchange trading firm stepping in as a title sponsor. CWM have already fronted the money for 2015, but would have to increase their sponsorship if LCR were to take a second RC213V.
The Gresini/Redding situation has repercussions elsewhere. Until Redding finalizes where he will be riding in 2015, Ducati will be holding open the seat at Pramac, complete with full factory backing. Redding's priority is to be riding a Honda RC213V, but if that plan falls through, then there are worse options than a factory-backed Desmosedici GP15. The Ducati is very much his second choice, however: if you had to choose between the bike being ridden by the current world champion, and a machine which hasn't been built yet, which, Ducati management assures everyone, promises to be better than the bike it replaces, a bike which hasn't won a race since 2010, then the time taken to make your decision would be measured in nanoseconds.
Alex Rins is one of the rising stars of Moto3. Rins is part of the generation which, along with Alex Marquez and Jack Miller, the factory bosses in MotoGP are looking to shake up the premier class in the future. After a strong season last year aboard the KTM in 2013, when he won six races, Rins has had a tougher season in 2014, now riding a Honda. On the podium just four times until Silverstone, a win had so far eluded him when we spoke to him on Thursday at Silverstone. That all changed on Sunday, when he finally won his first race of the season.
We covered quite a lot of ground with Rins, despite his protestations that he did not speak very good English. Rins spoke simply, but clearly of his year so far with the Honda, comparing it with the KTM he rode for the Estrella Galicia team last year. He talked of the difficulty of winning in Moto3, because of how close the field is at the front, and how that caused him to cheer a lap too early at Brno. And we touched briefly on his future, and the interest Yamaha showed in him to go straight to MotoGP.
MotoMatters: In 2013, you had a very strong season, you were winning races. This year has been a lot more difficult. You switched from KTM to Honda, the Honda has had to have some development. Tell me about this year?
Alex Rins: This year compared to 2013 it's very different. Last year I had only three rivals, this year I have more rivals, nine, ten. Sometimes nineteen, like in the last race! It's difficult, also to develop the bike, it's difficult. It's not easy.
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.
Scott Redding’s future
Silverstone was a weird weekend for Scott Redding. A year after his inch-perfect Moto2 win, and armed once more with that British GP feeling – “racing at home makes me almost feel like I’m invincible” – the 21-year-old achieved one of his best performances in the class of kings.
Redding topped QP1 (for the second time) and ended up out-qualifying three factory bikes. He might also have bettered Stefan Bradl’s RC213V, but for the fact that he had only one soft tyre left for QP2, allowing him only one run against MotoGP’s fastest men. If the MSMA hadn’t recently voted against allowing QP1-to-QP2 qualifiers an extra rear tyre, maybe he would’ve done even better than 11th.
That put Redding on the third row, two rows behind Valentino Rossi and therefore 20 yards behind his girlfriend, the callipygian Penny Sturgess, who spent the weekend working for the factory Yamaha team, holding Rossi’s brolly to shield the nine-time world champ from the punishing rays of the Silverstone sun. Extra motivation!
Donington Park is to host the British round of MotoGP in 2015. The Leicestershire circuit has reached agreement with the Circuit of Wales to host the British Grand Prix while the Welsh track is being built. The Circuit of Wales was in talks with both Donington, which hosted the British Grand Prix from 1987 until 2009, and Silverstone, which hosted the race from 2010 until this year, but agreed more favorable terms with Donington.
The deal is a little more complicated than most contracts with racetracks. Dorna has a contract with the Circuit of Wales to host the race for the next five years, but the Circuit of Wales is yet to be built. Construction on the ambitious project has yet to be started, and the project is still a long way short of the money it needs for completion. While the Head of the Valleys Development Company continues to work on completing the facilities, the Circuit of Wales needed to comply with its contract with Dorna and provide a venue to hold the British Grand Prix. The Circuit of Wales held talks with both Donington Park and Silverstone, but Silverstone wanted too much money to host the event, citing very high costs to run it. Unwilling to 'subsidize' the event, as they put it in the press release, Silverstone refused to drop their asking price. That left Donington Park as the only alternative.
As usual, Bridgestone issued their customary post-race press release after the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, giving their view of the weekend's racing. In this press release, Shinji Aoki discusses bringing an extra soft front tire to Silverstone, and the effect which the combination of very high average speeds and colder than expected tire temperatures have. The press release appears below:
British MotoGP™ debrief with Shinji Aoki
Tuesday, September 2 2014
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Extra-soft, Soft & Medium; Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main), Hard (Alternative)
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez won a thrilling battle with Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo at last Sunday’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the pair finishing first and second respectively with just 0.732 seconds between them, ahead of Valentino Rossi in third place on the other factory Yamaha M1.
After a chilly start to the race weekend conditions for Sunday’s race were relatively warm, with a peak track temperature of 34°C recorded at the start of the twenty-lap contest. The warmer weather created good conditions for Marquez and Lorenzo to set a fierce pace at the front of the field, with the winner Marquez recording the fastest ever total race time for a rider at a MotoGP™ race at Silverstone.
Q&A with Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorcycle Tyre Development Department
This year Bridgestone brought an expanded front slick tyre allocation to Silverstone. Was this a positive change for the riders at last weekend’s British Grand Prix?
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the British Grand Prix at Silverstone:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the British Grand Prix at Silverstone:
2014 Silverstone MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Three Great Races, A Fast Ducati, And A Tough Home Round For British Riders
The crowds at Silverstone certainly got their money's worth at this year's British Grand Prix. The weather turned, the sun shone, the temperature rose and the fans were treated to three scintillating races, along with an action-packed support program. The Moto3 race was the usual nail-biter, the race only decided on the entry to the final complex at Brooklands and Luffield. The Moto2 race was a throwback to the thrillers of old, with three men battling for victory to the wire. And the MotoGP was a replay of the 2013 Silverstone race, a duel decided by raw aggression.
That the MotoGP race should be so close was a surprise. After Friday practice, Marc Marquez looked to already have the race in the bag. The championship leader was fast right out of the box, setting a pace no one else could follow. Where the rest complained of a lack of grip from the cold conditions, and of struggling with the bumps created by F1, Marquez simply blew everyone away. A night of hard work figuring out set up solutions by crew and suspension technicians saw most riders greatly up the pace on Saturday, the front end now riding over the bumps, rather than being jolted around by them. Marquez still took pole, but the pace in FP4 looked much closer.
The concerns which the Yamahas had was mostly temperature, and so a bright, sunny day was exactly what they needed. It completed the transformation of Jorge Lorenzo from Friday. The tire brought by Bridgestone – the same compound as last year, but with the heat treatment layer which makes the edge of the tire a fraction stiffer – was not working for the Movistar Yamaha rider on Friday, but come Sunday, Lorenzo's crew had solved nearly all of his problems. "We improved the bike so much from Friday," he said after the race. They had found more corner speed during the morning warm up, and that gave Lorenzo the chance to fight. Once the lights dropped, Lorenzo took off like a scalded cat and tried to make a break from the front.
The popularity of Moto2 and Moto3 continues unabated, both among fans and among racing teams. Silverstone was the deadline for teams to submit their requests to be considered for grid slots in the two support classes for MotoGP in 2015, and the entries massively outnumbered the available spaces on the grid.
There were entries for 47 riders in Moto3, and 45 in Moto2, all competing for the 32 available slots in each class. The selection committee of IRTA, who decide who will be given the places on the grid, then selected a total of 33 teams who will be awarded grid slots. Those teams now have until Aragon to submit a list of the riders they will have under contract for 2015, and the bikes they intend to race next season. They will also have to pay a deposit to ensure their entry for next season.
The Aragon deadline will trigger an early round of negotiation for 2015 in the junior classes, which have traditionally not signed riders until very late on in the process. With teams required to submit a list of both riders and bikes, they will have to secure contracts, at least provisionally, with riders and with machinery manufacturers. The rider list submitted will not necessarily be the final 2015 line up for both classes, but it will be very close.
Full Recap and Results Below: