2013 Assen MotoGP Wednesday Round Up: Of Weird Wednesdays, Difficult Ducatis, And MotoGP's Long Term Future
Wednesday at Assen is always a rather odd day. At most rounds, Wednesday is a travel day, and the paddock regulars spend the day in airports, planes and hire cars. But because the race at Assen is on Saturday, the events that normally take place on Thursday such as the pre-event press conference, happen a day earlier. That leaves everyone with the racing equivalent of jet lag, their bodies and minds 24 hours behind events. Mentally, we are all prepared for a day of torpor and inaction. What we are greeted with is a day of rushing around to talk to riders, team managers, and anyone else foolish enough to cross our paths. Mind battles physical reality, and both come out losers.
Even focusing on the upcoming race is hard. Rolling into the circuit under bright skies and cheery temperatures - not warm, but not freezing either - feels slightly surreal after having studied the weather forecasts for the coming days. While race day is likely to be dry, Thursday and Friday look like being full wet days. What that means is that practice may not be much of a guide to what actually happens on race day, rendering practice and qualifying relatively meaningless.
Ducati, at least, will welcome the rain. "The rain is bad for the fans, but it's good for Ducati," Nicky Hayden quipped, though he was not entirely happy with the situation. The Ducati goes very well in the wet, despite still struggling in the dry. Though a wet race may act as a placebo - though perhaps an analgesic is a better metaphor - in easing the pain of the Ducati riders, the fact of the matter is that Andrea Dovizioso, Nicky Hayden, Andrea Iannone and Michele Pirro, still taking the place of the injured Ben Spies, are starting to run out of options.
The Dutch TT at Assen looks like being a very busy few days for everyone looking for a ride next year. The end of June has been earmarked as a deadline for all sorts of negotiations, from rider contracts to bike projects. Decisions will be made and contracts - or at least letters of intent - will be signed. A lot of paperwork should get done by the time the trucks roll out of the paddock on Sunday, heading for Germany and the Sachsenring.
Though most of the prototype rides are already wrapped up, there are still a few seats open, and some interesting and major changes could be on the way. The focal point for the future, and the key to all of the moves for next year is Scott Redding. The young Briton has raised his game in 2013, elevating himself to both the favorite for the 2013 Moto2 title, and hot property for MotoGP next season. Redding's prospects went from a possible ride on a Honda production racer with Marc VDS, on a relatively limited budget, to factories reconsidering their current contracts to see if they can make room for the Gloucestershire youngster.
Redding's options are still very open, the only limit the existing contracts the factories have. All three manufacturers would be keen to get their hands on him, with Ducati the current favorite to secure his services. Yamaha's hands are perhaps most tied, especially as Cal Crutchlow appears to be drawing ever closer to renewing his contract with the Tech 3 team, possibly including some kind of additional support from the factory. Redding could only join Yamaha if Bradley Smith could be persuaded to step aside, but the Englishman's contract looks to be pretty watertight so far.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after Sunday's GP de Catalunya at Barcelona:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after Sunday's Italian Grand Prix at Mugello:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello:
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the races at Donington Park:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after an exhilarating French Grand Prix in Le Mans:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Le Mans:
The last lap of the second World Superbike was frought with controversy after an overtake followed by an off-track excursion. The results of third and fourth place in the race have subsequently been reversed, following an appeal.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after Sunday's race at Qatar:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of the 2013 season opener at Qatar:
Every year, about now, there is one phrase which you will hear over and over again. With MotoGP testing behind us, and the start of the season imminent, every race fan chants the same mantra: "This could be the best MotoGP season ever!" Reality tends to intervene rather quickly, and the races never seem to pan out the way race fans had been hoping. Intriguing? Yes. Entertaining? Often. Thrilling? Not nearly as often as hoped.
And yet there is a genuine chance that this year could be different. Events inside MotoGP have been converging to a point which promises to see a return to the thrills of a previous era in MotoGP, one in which epic battles were fought out on the old 990cc machines. Though the days of tire-smoking action are long gone - killed off forever by the insistence of the factories that electronics must continue to play a major role in premier class racing - the battles could be back.
The ingredients which will spice up MotoGP? Two men, well matched in talent and in equipment - though both would dispute the latter claim, saying the other bike holds the upper hand. A grand old champion, returning to a bike he understands and knows he can ride and keen to prove he has not lost his edge. A fast young upstart, a fearless - some would say reckless - challenger, brimming with self-belief, overflowing with talent, and spoiling to make his mark. A talented underdog, a bull terrier desperate to get his teeth into the front runners, and bristling with resentment at the lack of factory support he believes he deserves. A stricken factory, fallen from its former glory, and determined to make amends, starting on the long road to recovering what it believes is its rightful place at the front. And a gaggle of young riders - some younger than others - determined to claim their place in the spotlights, and preferably on the podium.
As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. While discussions about the future of the World Superbike series are ongoing, there are no proposals at the current time to switch to naked bikes. The sales trend of the sport bike market segment is true, as are the numbers for bike sales in Belgian (I wrote a column for the Belgian magazine Motorrijder on this very subject, which is to appear in the April issue). The idea was sparked both by the current market trends in motorcycle sales, and by pictures of former greats like Eddie Lawson and Freddie Spencer muscling Kawasaki Z1000s and Honda VF750s around the track. For another year at least, all of the stories on the website will be as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed...
The news that Dorna had been handed control over the World Superbike series struck terror into the hearts of WSBK fans around the globe. The fear was Dorna would use their position of controlling both World Superbikes and MotoGP to widen the technical gap between the two series in an attempt to cut costs. With Dorna having so often complained that World Superbikes was encroaching on MotoGP territory, and with MotoGP's technical regulations becoming ever more restrictive, the logical step would appear to be to severely restrict the level of machinery used in WSBK.
Over the winter, and during the first round of the 2013 World Superbike series, talks between Dorna, the Superbike teams and the manufacturers involved in the series failed to make much headway. The factories could not agree among themselves what level of modification to allow, while the teams were unimpressed by Dorna's demands that a WSBK machine should cost 250,000 euros a season, stating that the money saved in the bike would only be spent elsewhere.
Talks had continued at the IRTA test at Jerez, with Dorna's new World Superbike boss Javier Alonso present, and engaged in private discussions with the bosses of HRC, Shuhei Nakomoto, Yamaha Motor Racing, Shigeto Kitegawa, and Ducati Corse, Bernhard Gobmeier. MotoMatters.com has learned that since then, further telephone discussions have taken place with Kawasaki boss Ichiro Yoda and Suzuki's Shinichi Sahara, while Alonso had previously spoken to Aprilia Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna at the Jerez circuit, during their test there.