Those who fear a Marquez whitewash at the Circuit of the Americas could draw some comfort from the raw numbers on the timesheets as Saturday progressed. Marquez gap from Friday was cut dramatically, first to under a second in FP3, then to a third of a second in FP4, before being slashed to less than three tenths in qualifying. Is the end of Marquez' dominance at Austin in sight?
But raw numbers are deceptive. Sure, the gap in single lap times is small, but there is still no one who can get close to the reigning world champion. Marquez' four flying laps were faster than the best laps by any other rider on the grid. Second place man Dani Pedrosa's fastest lap was still slower than Marquez' slowest. In FP4, Marquez punched out four laps in the 2'03s, while the best anyone else could do is lap in the 2'04s. During the morning FP3 session, Marquez racked up five 2'03s, while only Pedrosa could manage two 2'03s, Stefan Bradl, Andrea Dovizioso and Bradley Smith managing only a single solitary lap under 2'04.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Austin:
Press release previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's race in Austin:
2014 Qatar MotoGP Saturday Round Up - Marquez' Miracle, Espargaro Under Pressure, And Honda Back In Moto3 Business
On Thursday night, it looked like a revolution had been unleashed in MotoGP. After qualifying on Saturday, that revolution has been postponed. Three Spaniards on pole, two Spaniards on the front row for both MotoGP and Moto3. No prizes for guessing the names of any of the polesitters, all three were hotly tipped favorites at the beginning of the year.
So what has changed to restore order to the proceedings? In a word, track time. When the riders took to the track on Thursday, the factory riders had a lot of catching up to do. They had been down at Phillip Island, a track which has lots of grip and puts plenty of load into the tires. The heat resistant layer added to the 2013 tires really comes into its own, the track imbuing the riders with confidence. Qatar is a low grip track, thanks in part to the cooler temperatures at night, but the sand which continuously blows onto the track also makes it extremely abrasive, posing a double challenge to tire makers. Use rubber which is too soft, and the tire is gone in a couple of laps. Make it hard enough to withstand the abrasion, and it's hard to get the tire up to temperature.
Coming to Qatar is always tricky, riders needing time to build confidence and learn to trust the tires. Coming to Qatar from Phillip Island is a culture shock, and takes a while to get your head around. Riders need to throw away everything they have just learned, and start again. That, Bradley Smith explained, was one of the reasons he was on the front row – his first in MotoGP, a significant achievement for the young Briton – and the factory Movistar Yamaha riders weren't. 'Australia wasn't great for the factory guys, because they got to ride a tire which isn't this one,' he told the press conference. Smith and the other satellite riders had come from Sepang, another low-grip track, and spent three more days on the same tire and in similar grip conditions. 'Testing here ten days ago has helped a lot,' Smith concluded.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Qatar:
2014 Qatar MotoGP Thursday Round Up - The Open Revolution, Bridgestone's 2014 Tires, And Moto3's Mixed Bag
The old adage about not judging a book by its cover seems particularly apt after the first day at Qatar. Fans and followers were hoping the changes made over the winter might shake things up a little, but they weren't expecting a revolution. At the top of the timesheets in MotoGP sits Aleix Espargaro on the Open class Forward Yamaha, nearly half a second ahead of the rest. In second place was Alvaro Bautista, not on an Open bike, but on a satellite Honda. Bautista, in turn, was ahead of three other satellite machines, Tech 3's Bradley Smith leading Pramac Ducati rider Andrea Iannone, with the other Tech 3 bike of Pol Espargaro behind.
The first factory rider (that's factory rider, not Factory Option) was Dani Pedrosa in 6th, over a second behind the Open class bike of Aleix. Valentino Rossi in 7th, on the factory Movistar Yamaha, could only just hold off former teammate Colin Edwards on the other Forward Yamaha. Even Nicky Hayden was just a tenth off the pace of Rossi, despite the Drive M7 Aspar rider being on the production RCV1000R Honda, a bike which was giving away over 12 km/h to the M1 of Rossi.
The Red Bull KTM Ajo team issued a press release today, containing an interview with Karel Hanika, the young Czech rookie who has made an astounding debut in the Moto3 class during testing. In the interview, Hanika talks about progress in testing, working inside the Ajo team structure, and being the favorite to win rookie of the year in Moto3. The press release appears below:
"I wasn’t expecting to be so fast in preseason"
Red Bull KTM Ajo rider anxiously awaiting debut in World Championship after strong preseason –in which he was third last week at Jerez.
Karel Hanika is the reigning Red Bull Rookies Cup champion and a Moto3 World Championship debutant with Red Bull KTM Ajo. He has surprised many with his speedy preseason performances, and was third quickest at last week’s Jerez test. The 17 year-old is delighted with his new team, with KTM and with the help of new teammate Jack Miller.
The man with the number 98 will debut this Sunday at Losail, Qatar.
What is your analysis of this preseason?
"I think I can say that after the last test at Jerez, overall it was not bad. We've done a lot of work, many experiments and ridden very well. We have also had a mix of fast laps and race simulation laps. After all that, we are ready to start the season."
The Red Bull KTM team issued a press release containing an interview with Moto3 rider Jack Miller. In the interview, Miller looks back at preseason testing, talks about his hopes and expectations for 2014, and discusses how spending time on an uncompetitive bike has proven to be a strength. He also predicts when his first podium will come, and dicusses his teammate Karel Hanika. The press release appears below:
"I’ve trained hard for many years and I believe I am prepared"
Dominant in preseason testing, Jack Miller has proven to be one of the in-form Moto3 riders in the week before the start of the World Championship.
He debuted in the World Championship in 2011 and, after contesting the full 2012 and 2013 seasons, Jack Miller has signed with Red Bull KTM Ajo for 2014. The Australian has been quick to adapt to the Finnish team and has taken a big step forward ahead of the season –which starts in a week’s time in Qatar. He will be one of the focuses at Losail when the red lights go out.
How do you rate your preseason?
"It has been a very good preseason. I learnt a lot and the whole team have helped me. We’ve had some truly productive tests, so I think we're prepared."
How was your first experience of the Red Bull KTM Ajo team?
Italian rider Niccolo Antonelli was one of the revelations of Moto3 testing at Valencia and Jerez. Teammate Enea Bastianini was also notably quick. So the press release issued by the Go&Fun Gresini team featuring crew chiefs talking about the progress made so far with the KTM machines in preseason testing makes for interesting backround. The press release appears below:
MOTO3 PRE-SEASON TEST DEBRIEF WITH STEFANO RIMINUCCI AND FABRIZIO CECCHINI
Nine days of testing, divided equally between the circuits of Almeria, Valencia and Jerez have provided a first, interesting indication of the performance values ahead of the 2014 Moto3 World Championship campaign. During this trip across Spain, the Junior Team GO&FUN Moto3 has became soon a protagonist, being costantly at the top of the timesheets: during all the testing sessions, Niccolò Antonelli has been always in the top three positions, resulting the fastest over the three days spent at Valencia.
Press releases after the second day of testing at Jerez for the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after testing at Valencia:
Conditions improved a little for the second day of testing at Valencia, with warmer temperatures seeing times drop. The Moto2 riders were an average of a second faster than Tuesday, the Moto3 riders even faster, a second-and-a-half quicker than yesterday.
Improvement was pretty even across the field, in both classes. In the Moto3 class, the chasing hordes closed the gap on Niccolo Antonelli, though the young Italian continued to top the timesheets. He has Jack Miller breathing down his neck, however, the Australian ending the day just eight thousandths of a second behind the Italian.
With an Italian leading, an Australian in 2nd and young Brit Danny Kent in 3rd, the top of the Moto3 class has a decidedly international feel. The contrast with last year, where Spaniards took all but 5 of the 51 available podium positions, is huge. There is only one Spaniard - Isaac Viñales - in the top 5 at Valencia, and a total of 3 in the top 10. Italians feature heavily - the investment made by the Italian Federation over the past few years is very slowly starting to pay off - but there is also a Brit, an Australian and a Portuguese rider. The increased variety looks promising for 2014.