It has been a busy week for the medical staff of motorcycle racers. In Switzerland, Interwetten rider Thom Luthi underwent a second operation to sort out the elbow and shoulder he damaged during testing at Valencia, while Nicky Hayden had minor surgery to clean up some old scar tissue from his injured wrist.
Luthi's operation was the most serious. After the operation to fix the elbow he shattered, which took place directly after the test in mid-February, Luthi once again returned to the hospital this week to have a few problems in his shoulder seen to. The surgery reattached three torn ligaments in his acromioclavicular joint, the point where the collarbone attaches to the shoulder blade, which were also damaged during his crash at Valencia.
The operation is serious enough to put Luthi out of contention for the first two races of the season. The team are confident that the Swiss rider will be able to make his return at the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez on 5th of May, though whether he is at full fitness by then remains to be seen.
With the 2013 MotoGP season due to start in just four weeks' time, it's time to take a trip down memory lane and get ourselves excited about this season's racing. To do so, over the next few weeks, we will be running an occasional series of shots by MotoMatters.com star shooter Scott Jones, taken at some of the rounds he attended last season. His stunning photos are a reminder of why we love motorcycle racing so much. Remember also to check out the special offers Scott has on signed photos, including riders such as Casey Stoner, Cal Crutchlow and Nicky Hayden. Not long to go now...
Marc VDS Boss Michael Bartholémy Interview: On Scott Redding, Livio Loi, And What Went Wrong With Ducati
As well as speaking to Scott Redding about his aims for 2013 at the Marc VDS launch in Belgium, we also had the opportunity to interview Marc VDS Racing boss Michael Bartholémy. The German-speaking Belgian had a lot to say on his expectations, not just for Scott Redding and Mika Kallio in Moto2 this year, but also of the high hopes he has for Livio Loi, the 15-year-old Belgian youngster who will be racing in Moto3 for the team.
But perhaps most interesting of all, Bartholémy talked openly about what went wrong in the team's negotiations with Ducati last year. Through the middle part of 2012, it looked as if Marc VDS Racing was in the running to be managing the Ducati Junior team, with Scott Redding on one of the two satellite Ducati Desmosedicis. It did not work out, leaving Redding racing in Moto2 for another season. Bartholémy explains why. The Marc VDS boss also gives his vision on the production racers likely to be introduced for 2014, and how they affect the team's plans for next season. The interview follows after the jump:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of the second test at Sepang:
After an absence of some three weeks or so, the MotoGP teams once again return to action at Sepang for the second official test of the preseason. The intervening period has seen a flurry of activity in the factories in Japan and Italy, and at CRT team headquarters around Europe. The data accrued on the first visit to the Malaysian circuit has been analyzed, assessed, and more modifications made and ideas worked out for the second Sepang test. So what can we expect to see in Malaysia for the next three days? And what are the key details to keep an eye on?
The results of the first visit to Sepang went much as expected: Dani Pedrosa continued on the upward path that saw the Repsol Honda rider dominate the second half of the MotoGP season in 2012. Jorge Lorenzo kept Pedrosa honest, the factory Yamaha man sticking close to Pedrosa on all but the last day of the first test. Valentino Rossi demonstrated that he is still competitive, though he conveniently left the question of whether that is going to be good enough for podiums, wins or championships up in the air. Marc Marquez lived up to expectations, though given just how high those expectations were, that is an impressive enough feat on its own. Cal Crutchlow confirmed that he is the best of the rest, though Stefan Bradl ran him close; Bradley Smith made the kind of transition to MotoGP that validated his team boss' faith in the young Briton; and the Ducatis proved just how deep a hole they find themselves in, by finishing the test two seconds or more off the pace.
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 will be featuring sections of Oxley's blogs, posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website, over the coming months.
The question is: are CRT bikes too slow? It depends on your viewpoint. If you are Jorge Lorenzo, under pressure from Dani Pedrosa as you come upon a backmarker at a crucial corner, then, yes, they probably are too slow. But if you are able to stand back and look at CRT bikes from a historical perspective then, no, they are not too slow.
After the MotoGP class kicked off the 2013 preseason at Sepang, testing season is now well and truly opened. From Tuesday, the Moto2 and Moto3 teams assemble at Valencia for their first group test of the year, a test which should provide a few clues to the way the 2013 might develop, while raising more questions to be answered at the following test next week at Jerez.
It is not the first time on the track for everyone, however. A gaggle of KTM-mounted Moto3 teams have already posted laps at Almeria, joined there by the reigning Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese on his Kalex Moto2 machine, while another group of Moto3 boys had a shakedown test at Cartagena. As neither Almeria nor Cartagena, both located in Southern Spain, appear on the Grand Prix calendar, the lessons learned will be useful, but limited, the bikes still needing work once the teams arrive at Valencia for the three-day test, from 12th to 14th of February.
Times dropped for the MotoGP men on the second day of testing at Sepang, much as you might expect once the riders have had a night's sleep to assimilate what they have learned from the previous day's testing. Comparing the times between the first and second days of testing provides an interesting view of where improvements were found, and who had gained the most between the two days.
The average improvement for all of the riders was around seven tenths of a second between the first and second days, but there were a few truly notable exceptions. The gains - or in some cases, losses - are shown in the two tables below, the first sorted in order of the fastest times set on the second day of testing, the second table sorted by improvement.
Biggest winners of the day are Ben Spies and Colin Edwards, both gaining over two seconds over their times from Tuesday, but as both are suffering with injury - Spies is still coming back from major shoulder surgery at the end of last year, while Edwards suffered a recurrence of a neck problem - there are extra factors at play here.
With the first full day of MotoGP testing behind us, we can start to compare times between this year and last year. Conditions were broadly similar, though as the CRT bikes had done a few laps over the past couple of days, there was slightly more rubber on the track than at the end of January in 2012. But discarding the difference in conditions between the two tests, a pattern emerges from the relative improvement or decline of the various riders.
The rider who improved most between 2012 and 2013 is a bit of a surprise: Honda test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi made a huge leap of over 4 seconds between this year and last, but other than the occasional wildcard, Akiyoshi will take no part in 2013, and so not too much should be read into those times.
Stefan Bradl made a huge leap forward: unsurprisingly, given that Sepang in January last year was the first time the German got to ride the 1000cc version of Honda's RC213V, having only tested the 800cc bike at Valencia three months' earlier. Much of the improvement comes from Bradl himself; the LCR Honda man has learned a lot in his rookie year, and will clearly be a factor in 2013. Cutting nearly 1.9 seconds off his time between 2012 and 2013 is a very positive achievement.
It's nearly time. In a few short hours, the full MotoGP field will roll out onto the track for the first time this year, and the 2013 MotoGP season will officially get underway with preseason testing.
That, at least, is the hope. For testing to truly get underway, MotoGP needs the weather to cooperate, something it has been reluctant to do for the past couple of days during the two days of extra testing laid on for the CRT teams using the new Magneti Marelli ECU. Part of Sunday and just about all of Monday were lost to rain, and the forecast for the next three days is for more rain than usual in this part of the world. Fortunately, the mornings look like being dry, so the fans will at least get to see some action on track.
And there is plenty to look forward to. The biggest topic of conversation among fans, unsurprisingly, is Valentino Rossi's return to Yamaha. The Italian got off to a false start upon leaving the Ducati garage and heading a few doors down to Yamaha, when the weather at the Spanish track made conditions tricky and comparisons difficult. Yamaha then decided to up sticks and head to Aragon, in the hope of finding some dry track time. They were disappointed.
So Sepang should be the first real test of just how competitive Rossi still is once he is back on a bike which he understands and has a front end which provides him with the feedback he relies on to go fast. Rossi has seen his career come to a standstill for the past two years at Ducati, while the men he will have to beat this year have grown in stature and experience, and are now at the peak of their careers. The Italian will have to hit the ground running if he is to catch Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, and it will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination.
The second day of the special CRT test at Sepang, laid on to allow the teams using the brand new Magneti Marelli spec ECU, was as beset by problems as the first day. If technical problems and a lack of parts had been the bane of day 1, it was the weather which dogged the teams, though technical problems persisted. Heavy rain in the morning meant that only Danilo Petrucci went to put in a few laps before running into an electrical issue with a coil left the engine running on two cylinders. The rain stopped in the afternoon, but the track remained wet, leaving the riders present to do only a few laps.
The first day of the extra two-day test for the CRT teams laid on to allow the teams using the new Magneti Marelli spec ECU has been almost entirely wasted. A lack of parts and above all, a lack of data with the new system meant that the day was spent mostly in the garage, with very few laps turned out on the track.
Only CAME Ioda's Danilo Petrucci got in any serious track time, the Italian posting a total of 27 laps. All of those laps were set without any assistance from the electronics, however: with no data, the team had no base set up to work from, and Petrucci was lapping without any electronic aid. "It's really hard to ride a bike without any electronic controls," Petrucci posted on Twitter afterwards, a fact that is borne out by his times. Petrucci's fastest lap was a 2'06.841, two seconds slower than his best time from the race weekend at Sepang, and four seconds behind the best CRT time set back in October of last year.
With launch season in full swing, the next team to kick off their 2013 campaign was the CAME IODA Racing project. The team, run by former Aprilia supremo Giampiero Sacchi, will field two riders in MotoGP and one in Moto2. In the premier class, Danilo Petrucci returns to the team once again for his second year. He will be joined by former 250cc man Lukas Pesek, the Czech rider having found the prerequisite funds to secure a slot alongside Petrucci. Frenchman Johann Zarco will contest the Moto2 season for the team. All three riders will be using Suter chassis, Petrucci and Pesek on Suter BMW machines, using the spec Magneti Marelli electronics, while Zarco has the championship-winning Suter Moto2 chassis used by Marc Marquez in 2012.
Below is the press release issued by the team:
CAME IODARACING TEAM TAKES ITS COVER OFF ITS 2013 MOTOGP CHALLENGE
CAME and IODARACING PROJECT unveiled their team to take part to the MOTO 2 and MOTOGP classes of the 2013 World Championship at their factory in Dosson di Casier on Wednesday 30th January. .
The partnership between the company based in Veneto, a leader in automation systems and access controls, and the factory in Terni continues in the best possible way. Both enterprises will face together the most important motorcycling world championship. A Made-in-Italy challenge.
The rider line up for the 2013 Moto3 season:
The rider line up for the 2013 Moto2 season: