Silly Season Update - Ducati Confirmed, Suzuki Announcement Imminent, And Will Aprilia Be Back Sooner?
The Danish physicist and father of quantum physics Niels Bohr is reputed to have said "Prediction is hard, especially about the future." Just a few days after our comprehensive silly season update was posted, at the World Ducati Weekend event, Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone and Cal Crutchlow all confirmed they would be staying at Ducati for next season, throwing our predictions into disarray. None of the Ducati riders were leaving for Suzuki - or in Cal Crutchlow's case, a satellite Honda - meaning that the Japanese factory was forced to make a few adjustments to their plans. And not only Suzuki: since the Ducati announcement, more of the pieces of the 2015 MotoGP puzzle have started to fall into place. Time to revisit what we know so far, and what we expect in the next few days.
Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have completed their three-day test at Brno. The final half-day of the test was used to further work on set up and new parts for the 2014 bike, though Marc Marquez also put in five laps on the 2015 machine.
The Repsol Honda riders also tested a thumb-operated rear brake at Brno, similar in set up to the system used by Mick Doohan. The system was being tested because of the extreme lean angles modern MotoGP bikes are achieving, Pedrosa told MCN's Matt Birt. Birt also reported that Honda have no intention of racing the system, but wanted to try it.
Below is the press release issued by HRC after the three-day test:
Three-day test concludes in Czech Republic
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have completed the private Honda test in Brno. Both riders used these three days to prepare themselves for the second half of the season and also had the chance to ride the first version of the 2015 machine. On this final day, both riders finished testing at lunchtime with Dani stopping first after 16 laps on the 2014 machine. Marc completed 41 laps on the 2014 bike and 5 laps on the 2015 prototype.
Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have completed the second day of their test at Brno. Though most of the day was spent testing their current bike, both Pedrosa and Marquez also rode the preliminary version of the 2015 RC213V. Visually, there are few differences with the 2014 bike, though there are a few details visible. Dani Pedrosa told MCN's Matt Birt that the main difference was in the frame, which was aimed at improving corner entry. Motocorse blogger Manziana noticed the most obvious difference was in the rear subframe mounting point. Moving that mount suggests that fuel tank has also been moved, something which would certainly have an effect on braking and corner entry. The press release from Honda appears below:
Marquez and Pedrosa have first outing on 2015 machine
After yesterday’s tricky weather conditions, today Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa had their first taste of next year’s bike.
At the start of the summer break, Repsol and HRC announced they will be extending their sponsorship agreement for the next three seasons. The Spanish oil giant will continue to back the factory Honda team until the end of the 2017 season, continuing a partnership which first started in 1995, the year after Mick Doohan won his first title for Honda.
The press release announcing the deal appears below:
Repsol and Honda extend MotoGP collaboration through to 2017
Since 1995 Repsol has been the title sponsor of the factory Honda MotoGP team and after 20 years of sporting success and technological development, a new three year agreement will see Honda and Repsol continue their special partnership through to the end of 2017.
This is the longest running sponsor-factory agreement of its kind in the history of the motorcycle World Championship, and has converted the Repsol Honda bikes into icons within the motorsport world. Reigning World Champion, Marc Marquez, together with teammate and Honda stalwart Dani Pedrosa, will continue to represent these two prestigious brands as the factory riders.
The Repsol Honda team today started a three-day test at the Brno circuit. The team issued the following press release after the first day of testing:
Constructive first day in Brno despite temperamental weather
Fresh from their fantastic 1-2 finish in the German GP on Sunday, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were back on track in Brno today on day one of the three-day test.
Although the weather was bright and sunny first thing, a heavy rain shower at 11.30am drenched the track and left the Honda riders no option but to try some wet settings on their RC213V machines, Marc suffering a small crash in turn five after losing the front. The track slowly dried and by mid-afternoon it was dry enough to resume the testing program, but with very low grip. Marc and Dani remained on their current 2014 machines for the duration of the day working on general bike settings with both riders recording 49 laps each.
Tomorrow the plan will be to continue their schedule and also test the 2015 machine for the first time.
Marc Marquez - 49 laps
2014 Sachsenring Sunday MotoGP Round Up - Marquez' Perfect Record, Dangerous Starts, And A Spaniard-Free Zone
The former England soccer player Gary Lineker once described the sport as follows: "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win." It feels somehow fitting to paraphrase that quote on the day that the Germans play in the World Cup final. Motorcycle racing is a simple sport, where 23 people ride a MotoGP bike as fast as they can, and Marc Marquez always wins.
He found yet another way to win at the Sachsenring. A heavy rain shower between the Moto2 race and the sighting lap for MotoGP left the grid in disarray, with about three quarters of the field heading in to swap from their wet to their dry bikes at the end of the warm up lap. That left fourteen riders to start from pit lane, five abreast, after jostling for position. At that point, the race should have been red flagged – more on that later – but instead, they all got out of pit lane safely. Just.
Marquez showed himself to be a master of improvisation, pitting quickly, swapping bikes and elbowing his way to the front of the pits. He took advantage of the chaos, exited pit lane first, and led the charge towards the shellshocked remainder of the pack who had started from the grid proper. He was 8.5 seconds behind the leader Stefan Bradl by the end of the first sector, a deficit which he had cut to 7.7 seconds by the end of the first lap. Before the sixth lap was completed, he had caught and passed the LCR Honda man, going on to win his ninth straight MotoGP race with relative ease. He faced an early challenge from his teammate Dani Pedrosa, but Marquez was more aggressive in getting past Bradl, where Pedrosa hesitated for a second. Pedrosa pushed hard once past, nearly caught Marquez, but faded towards the end.
Press releases from Bridgestone and the MotoGP teams after Sunday's strange German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring:
2014 Sachsenring Saturday MotoGP Round Up - Marquez On Pole, Silly Season Shenanigans, And The Dangers Of Skipping Moto2
After he missed out on pole at Barcelona, and then again at Assen, people were starting to wonder if cracks were starting to appear in Marc Marquez's hegemony in MotoGP. His performance in qualifying may have faltered, but his reign remained intact when it counted, winning the first eight races in a row. On Saturday, Marquez hammered home his supremacy once again, taking pole by three tenths of a second – an eternity at the short and tight German circuit – and breaking Casey Stoner's pole record for the circuit from 2008, a record set on super-sticky qualifying rubber, tires which disappeared with the introduction of the spec tire a year later. Once again, Marquez moved the bar, posting the first ever sub 1'21 lap of the Sachsenring.
It was a goal he suspected was possible when he posted a 1'21.5 on used tires during FP4. Already fast on his first run, everything slotted into place on his second, and the new record was his. "I felt everything was perfect with the second tire, and I could get the record," Marquez said. His seventh pole of the season also sets him up to retain his perfect win record on Sunday. Starting on the front row is crucial at the Sachsenring. The track is tight, and passing places are few and far between. Starting from pole, especially for a relatively poor starter like Marquez, gives him a head start for tomorrow's race.
So who can challenge Marquez on Sunday? The list of candidates is short. There is of course his teammate, Dani Pedrosa always having been fast here at the circuit. Pedrosa post a fast lap on his first qualifying run, and looked set to improve it as he exited the pits for his second attempt. He was perhaps a little too eager, however, and the Repsol Honda man folded the front going into Turn 1 just as he started his second flying lap. "I think I hit a bump under braking," Pedrosa said. His race pace throughout practice was good, but could not match the pace of Marquez.
Press releases from Bridgestone and the MotoGP teams after Saturday's qualifying for the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at the Sachsenring:
2014 Sachsenring MotoGP Preview - On Breaking The Streak, Fighting For Contracts And Keeping The Waterfall
After winning the first five races of the season, Marc Marquez said he feared the trio of Mugello, Barcelona and Assen, which were to follow. He would surely be beaten at one of those tracks, given they favored the Yamaha M1 and were strong tracks for both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. Three races and three wins later, and Marquez is looking increasingly invincible. The Repsol Honda man keeps inventing new ways to win, and keep his opponents at bay.
So if Marquez is impossible to beat at a Yamaha circuit, perhaps he can be beaten at a Honda track. So far, Dani Pedrosa has been the only rider to get close to beating his teammate, after pushing him all the way at Barcelona. The Sachsenring is a track where Pedrosa has reigned supreme in recent years, having won four times in the last eight years. Impressive as it is, that does not do his record at the track justice. In his rookie year, he finished fourth in Germany, missing out by just three tenths of a second in one of the closest and most thrilling races to be held at the circuit. In 2008 he crashed out of the lead in the wet, a result that would lead him to concentrate on improving his riding in the rain. In 2009 he finished third, close behind the battle between Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, and in 2013, Pedrosa was absent after breaking a collarbone during practice.
There is just one minor problem. If you think Dani Pedrosa's record at the Sachsenring is strong – and numbers don't lie, Pedrosa is the man to beat in Germany – just wait until you see what Marc Marquez has done at the circuit. For the past four years, in three different classes, Marquez has won the race after starting from pole. The Spaniard won here in his last year in 125s, won both Moto2 races he contested here, then took victory in his first MotoGP race at the circuit. It was his second win in the class, after becoming the youngest ever winner at Austin earlier in 2013. Marquez did not have to beat either Pedrosa or Lorenzo, of course, both men having withdrawn with broken collarbones. So this race is a straight fight for Sachsenring supremacy. The winner in 2014 may rightly call himself King of the 'Ring.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone previewing this weekend's German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring:
As expected, Dani Pedrosa has signed on for another two years with HRC, and will remain in the factory Repsol Honda team until the end of 2016. Reports from Spain suggested that a deal was close to completion at Assen, and the details have now been finalized. The deal means that the Repsol Honda team will remain unchanged for a further two years, with Pedrosa lining up alongside 2013 world champion Marc Marquez until the end of the 2016 season.
The deal between Pedrosa and Honda had taken a little while to complete, with Pedrosa briefly flirting with Suzuki, who are set to make a return to MotoGP in 2015. That flirtation was never completely serious, and given the salary Pedrosa was rumored to be demanding to ride for Suzuki - said to be 8 million euros - Pedrosa was not keen to leave Honda. Staying at Honda does come at a price, however. Rumors in the Spanish media suggest that Pedrosa was forced to take a cut in base salary, with compensation coming in the form of performance-based bonuses. The veracity of such claims is hard to test, as HRC did not disclose any of the details of the contract with Pedrosa. Keeping salaries secret is common practice in MotoGP, teams and factories fearing it could unleash a bidding war.
The Comprehensive MotoGP Silly Season Update: How Things Stand For Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki, Kalex, And Even Moto3
The current status of MotoGP's silly season? Two down, plenty still to go. Valentino Rossi may have joined Marc Marquez as the only other factory rider to have put pen to paper for 2015 and 2016, the rest of the grid is still in the middle of negotiating their riders for next year. Even Cal Crutchlow, who has a contract to race with Ducati in 2015, but more of that later.
Who will join Rossi at Movistar Yamaha and Marquez at Repsol Honda? Most likely, the two men who are already there. It is hard to see either Dani Pedrosa or Jorge Lorenzo jumping ship to ride anywhere else. Though HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto flirted with Lorenzo late last year, he understands that it would be terrible team politics to upset his number one rider, and the man who is likely to bring a fleet of titles to Honda over the next few season.
What HRC needs is a reliable number two rider, and Pedrosa has proven to be perfect in that role. Fast enough to win races of his own accord, and a solid force in the team, not the kind of character to kick up a fuss. He has six podiums this year, as well as a pole position, and can win should Marquez falter. Spanish media are reporting that Pedrosa is close to wrapping up a contract with the Repsol Honda team, with talks having gone at Assen. The new contract would mean less salary for Pedrosa, but at least at Honda, he has a chance of winning races. Big money offers from Ducati and Suzuki are much more of a gamble, with neither bike yet having proven capable of winning.
With the win at Assen, Marc Marquez brought his tally for the season up to eight, and a clean sweep of the races so far. After the race, many fans remarked on Marquez' remarkable pit swap strategy, jumping straight from one bike to the other without touching the ground, rather than hopping off one and onto the second bike, as the other riders on the grid do. It looks spectacular in photos, such as this one tweeted by Marquez himself, though if you watch the video from MotoGP's Youtube channel, it's clearly more of a hop than a leap.
Did Marquez get any benefit from it? The best way to answer that is to measure it, and fortunately, the MotoGP.com website offers us two ways to do that. The results section of the website holds a PDF with an analysis of every lap done by each rider, broken down into sector times. By taking the times posted by each rider for the last sector of the lap on which they entered the pits, and the first sector of the lap on which they exited the pits, we get a clear idea of how much time riders lost in swapping bikes. In addition, the video of the race on the MotoGP.com website (MotoGP.com subscription required) shows on screen the times riders actually spent in the pits, from crossing the pit lane entrance line to the pit lane exit line. Using these two numbers, we can get a fair idea of who comes out best after making their pit stops.