A day after the provisional entry lists for the Grand Prix classes were released by the FIM, and there's one change already. Today, Husqvarna announced that they would be joining the Moto3 world championship, and fielding a factory team.
The Red Bull Husqvarna Factory Racing team will be run by Aki Ajo, and have Danny Kent as rider. Furthermore, Husqvarna will also be providing support for Niklas Ajo in the Avant Tecno team.
The announcement that Husqvarna is racing in Moto3 does not mean a brand new bike will be entered. The Husqvarna will be a rebadged KTM, run under a similar arrangement as Gilera and Derbi in the 250cc and 125cc classes, which were really just rebadged Aprilias. Danny Kent's Moto3 bike will be a factory KTM with a Husqvarna badge on the tank. That KTM would use such an arrangement is not unusual: Pierer Industries, the majority stakeholder in KTM, is also 100% owner of Husqvarna, having acquired the brand earlier this year. Husqvarna off-road bikes are currently being produced in KTM's factory in Mattighofen, Austria.
The FIM today announced the provisional entry lists for the 2014 season in all three classes. Despite the loss of Maverick Viñales and Luis Salom, who are moving up to Moto2, the Moto3 class looks like being another thrilling and close race to the end of the year. Alex Rins and Jack Miller are currently the hot favorites for the title, with Rins' Estrella Galicia teammate Alex Marquez likely to be a candidate too, after his outstanding rookie year in the series. Miller's Red Bull KTM teammate Danny Kent will also be aiming to battle for the championship, the British youngster having stepped back to the Moto3 class with the express purpose of winning the championship.
Among the riders currently viewed as outsiders, Miguel Oliveira features strongly as a contender after a very strong year on the Mahindra. Jakub Kornfeil moves up to take the bike vacated by 2013 Moto3 champion Maverick Viñales, while much is expected of the new Team Sky VR46 squad of Romano Fenati and Francesco Bagnaia, the team set up by Valentino Rossi and with former Ducati man Vitto Guareschi as team manager. There will also be a lot of attention for Karel Hanika, the Czech youngster making the move up from the Red Bull Rookies. Hanika is rated very highly in the Moto3 paddock, and his testing times have already shown promise.
2013 Valencia MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Pressure, Mistakes, Engines, And How To Win A Championship
After all the drama, the talk stops tomorrow. Two titles on the line, and five men to fight over them. On Sunday, there will be no talk of crew chiefs being sacked, of team bosses appealing for penalty points, of teams concocting dubious plans, of teammates, team strategies or team orders. When the red lights go out, and the thunderous roar of four-stroke racing motorcycles fills the natural bowl which cradles the tightly wound ribbon of tarmac that is the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, it is every man and woman for themselves, and the devil take the hindmost. Nearly a hundred young men and one young woman will take to the track on Sunday. Most have already had their dreams of glory shattered; three more will share that disappointment; only two will etch their names permanently into the history books.
Both the Moto3 and the MotoGP titles are still undecided, the winner of each race likely to be crowned champion. The Moto2 title is already decided, and going on the evidence of practice and qualifying, the race could be over within a couple of laps, Pol Espargaro hoping to top off his championship with a win in the final race in front of his home crowd. The HP Tuenti Pons rider has been fastest in every session so far, usually by a comfortable margin, so his objective looks well within his grasp. Others may try to prevent an Espargaro victory march, but it doesn't look like either Tito Rabat, Jordi Torres or Nico Terol will be able to do much about it. Espargaro has deserved his title, repaying the faith Yamaha put in him when they signed him to the Tech 3 MotoGP team at Qatar, before the very first race of the year.
MotoGP fans have been rubbing their hands in anticipation of this weekend's final round of the championship. The race has everything: a mental Moto3 race to be decided outright by the rider who wins, with just five points separating Luis Salom, Maverick Viñales and Alex Rins; a triumphant homecoming for a newly crowned Moto2 champion, Pol Espargaro wearing a positively regal helmet to celebrate, while his title rival Scott Redding wears special leathers and helmet thanking the Marc VDS Racing team who have stood behind him for the past four seasons; and a shootout for the MotoGP championship, between Jorge Lorenzo, a man with nothing to lose, and Marc Marquez, who has to balance between riding hard enough to keep the bike working properly and not taking any unnecessary risks, while ensuring he comes home in fourth, something which sounds easier than it is. There were even a couple of sideshows: the presentation of the Honda RCV1000R production racer, and Yamaha's annual technical presentation, in which they brief the media on how they have developed the bike to be so competitive.
All that is forgotten. Valentino Rossi's shock announcement on Thursday that he had told long-term crew chief Jeremy Burgess that he wanted to replace him with someone else has dominated the headlines, as well as the hearts and minds of almost everyone in the paddock. In the search for the elusive last couple of tenths of a second which separate Rossi from the three Spanish superstars who have dominated the 2013 season, the Italian is leaving no stone unturned. Even the most revered of institutions - Burgess is held in extremely high regard throughout the paddock, even by his fiercest rivals - are no longer sacred. Rossi still wants to win, and so far, he has failed. 'We've been chasing rainbows for four years,' as Burgess so succinctly put it, but to no avail. 'We haven’t nailed anything decent in those four years. These are long periods in racing and it becomes more and more difficult.'
For the first time in a long time, the MotoGP circus heads to the final race of the year at Valencia with not one, but two championships still undecided (and if there hadn't been that first-lap incident in the Moto2 race at Motegi, it could even have been three). The title is still to be decided in both the MotoGP and Moto3 championships, and the possible mathematical permutations are having race fans and followers racking their brains trying to work out who needs to finish where for either Marc Marquez or Jorge Lorenzo to win the MotoGP title, or Luis Salom, Maverick Viñales or Alex Rins to lift the Moto3 crown.
To assist with this computation, we have drawn up two tables with all of the possible permutations, one for the MotoGP class, and one for the Moto3 class. Using the tables below, you can see all of the possibilities the two MotoGP men and three Moto3 riders have to win the title in their respective classes.
Danny Kent is to return to the Red Bull KTM Ajo team in Moto3 for 2014. The move had been widely anticipated after Kent made the surprise announcement after the Aragon round that he was to leave the Tech 3 Moto2 team. Kent rejoins the Ajo Moto3 team aiming to compete for wins and the Moto3 title, and completes a very strong rider line up in the team. Kent will be teammates with Australian sensation Jack Miller, and the highly regarded Red Bull Rookies Cup winner Karel Hanika. Zulfahmi Khairuddin, currently inside the Red Bull KTM Ajo team, will be shifted out to the one-rider structure currently occupied by Niklas Ajo, with Air Asia backing.
The KTM Ajo team will be one of the favorites for the 2014 Moto3 title, with the Estrella Galicia 0,0 team being the other. That team, run by Emilio Alzamora, will field Alex Marquez and, if he doesn't win the Moto3 championship next Sunday at Valencia, Alex Rins, though they will be switching from KTM to Honda, with HRC building a brand new, far more powerful Moto3 machine to take on the mighty KTMs.
Other teams to watch in 2014 include the Gresini squad, who will be switching to KTM and fielding Isaac Vinales and Niccolo Antonelli, Team Sky (the VR46-backed team run by Vitto Guareschi) with Romano Fenati, and possibly Team Calvo, if they can secure the services of Miguel Oliveira.
2013 Motegi MotoGP Sunday Round Up: On The Unpredictability Of Racing, And Why You Should Never Trust Pundits
There have been occasions over the past few years when I have asked Nicky Hayden how he manages to find the motivation to keep racing every Sunday. His answer is always the same, whether I have asked him after a surprise podium, or after coming in tenth: 'You never know what can happen in the race. That's why we line up.' Hayden is living testament to his own deeply driven mixture of ambition, hope and determination. His 2006 championship was won against the odds, and against the greatest rider of the period at the height of his powers.
Sunday's races at Motegi - indeed, the races at all three of the flyaways - have been a shining example of the vicissitudes of racing. In all three classes, the presupposed script was torn up and thrown away. In Moto3, young men facing pressure made major mistakes. In Moto2, one astounding comeback met with disaster, another astounding comeback met with triumph, and a championship. And in MotoGP, the champion elect as of a couple of races ago is finding himself having to fight for his title. The season is only over once everyone crosses the line for the last time at Valencia.
Ducati team boss Vitto Guareschi is to leave Ducati at the end of this season and to manage the new Sky Moto3 team being run with the backing of Valentino Rossi's VR46 merchandising franchise. Guareschi is to assume the role of team manager in the project, which has been set up with the express aim of developing new young Italian talent. The team will field two riders, with Romano Fenati already having been signed for 2014, and a second rider yet to be announced. That rider will not be Rossi's half-brother Luca Marini, as Marini has already signed a contract to race in the Spanish championship in 2014.
Guareschi's departure is part of the ongoing large-scale organizational shake up at Ducati. Guareschi had been with the team from the start, first as test rider helping to develop the bike, and then later as a team manager, but his role had been diminished at the start of the year, when Paolo Ciabatti was brought in as MotoGP Project Manager. There have been persistent rumors that Ducati are trying to persuade Davide Tardozzi to take over the role of team manager for Ducati's MotoGP team, but so far, no official announcement has been made.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the races at Phillip Island:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Phillip Island:
Press releases after the first day of practice for the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Phillip Island:
Press releases from Dunlop and the Moto2 and Moto3 teams previewing the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island:
If there was any doubt that Race Direction in MotoGP is trying to impose a stricter code of behavior on riders in all three Grand Prix classes, the bumper crop of penalty points issued at Aragon and Sepang makes their intention clear. At Aragon, three penalty points were awarded: One for Alessandro Tonucci in Moto3, for staying on the line during qualifying, and one for Sandro Cortese for the incident in the Moto2 race, when he touched Alex De Angelis, causing the Italian to crash.
The most discussed penalty was of course the one issued for Marc Marquez, who was penalized for the touch on Dani Pedrosa which severed the cable to Pedrosa's rear wheel speed sensor, confusing the electronics and causing the unlucky Pedrosa to be ejected from his Repsol Honda. Marquez had to wait until Sepang to be hear what the punishment for that incident would be, after Race Direction asked for more data.
At Sepang, a couple more penalty points were handed out. One to Pol Espargaro, for not respecting the newly instated starting zones, and cutting across in front of other riders waiting to do a practice start, and one for Maverick Viñales, for his excessively robust move in the run to the finish line, when he barged Jack Miller aside to grab 5th place.