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.
Normally, motorcycle racing fans face a long and empty wait between the last tests in November and the first tests in late January and early February. Fortunately, this year, it's different, thanks to the revival of the Superprestigio brand by Jaime Alguersuari, father of the Formula One driver of the same name, and founder of Spanish magazine Solomoto. Alguersuari has pulled off a massive coup by getting 2013 MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez involved, and getting him to front the race. On Saturday, 11th January, some of the best riders in the world will race on an indoor dirt track oval at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona's Olympic Park.
Clash Of The Champions: Barcelona Superprestigio Flat Track Event Pits Marquez, Espargaro And Viñales Against Brad Baker
A new chapter is to be written in the long and illustrious history of motorcycle racing on Montjuic, the hill that borders the south side of Barcelona. On January 11th, a selection of Grand Prix racers, including all three world champions Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro and Maverick Viñales, are to compete in the Superprestigio dirt track event to be held at the Palau Sant Jordi on Montjuic. The event is to be broadcast on Spanish TV
The race is to be held on single cylinder four-stroke flat trackers, raced around a 200 meter dirt oval inside the former Olympic indoor arena. Entry is by invitation only, and racing will take place in three separate classes: the Junior category, for riders under 18; the Open category, for experienced riders from around the globe racing in national championships; and the Superprestigio category, for riders currently competing in the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 classes. At the end of the evening, a run off is to be held between the four best racers in the Open category and the four best from the Superprestigio category.
The 2014 MotoGP rider line up:
Though most of the contracts were settled some time ago, there were still a few question marks on the 2014 MotoGP grid. The official entry list released by the FIM today answers some of those questions, but the answers it gives may yet turn out to be wrong. The list features 11 entries to be run under the Factory rules, which means 20 liters of fuel, 5 engines per season and the freedom to use proprietary software on the spec Magneti Marelli ECU. The remaining 13 bikes will be run as Open entries, which gives them 24 liters of fuel and 12 engines per season, but forces them to use the Dorna-controlled spec software on the Magneti Marelli ECU.
The 2014 season looks set to follow the pattern established in 2013, with Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo likely to dominate. Of interest is the fact that Marc Marquez has been entered with number 93, rather than the number 1 which the world champion is allowed to use, but this may yet change before the start of the season. Marquez would dearly like to retain 93, but Honda is keen to see him run the number 1 plate.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the race on Sunday at Valencia:
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.
As the 2013 MotoGP season heads into its final five races, negotiations for 2014 are coming to a head. While the seats on factory and satellite machines were filled some time ago, the next level of competitiveness, both in terms of riders and bikes, is now up for grabs.
Two names and two teams were the focal point of the negotiations, and the log jam behind which many other riders were waiting. It was up to Aleix Espargaro to make a decision on whether to stay at Aspar, or pay off his contract and head to the NGM Forward squad, and up to Nicky Hayden to decide whether his future lay in MotoGP with Aspar or Forward, or if it was time to head over to World Superbikes, and become the first rider to win a title in both series.
In turn, the Aspar and NGM Forward teams had become the hot ticket, because of the packages they had to offer, and how competitive they are expected to be. Forward will be running Yamaha's leased engine package, consisting of an engine, frame and swingarm from the 2013 Yamaha M1 for 2014, with the rest of the bike to be built by FTR. The British engineering firm will then build an entire chassis package for 2015, though the chassis could be entered earlier if it is finished. The package will run the spec Dorna software instead of Yamaha's custom electronics, and this is likely to be the limiting factor on performance.
Though there are plenty of reasons to attend the Silverstone round of MotoGP - the chance to see history being made by Marc Marquez, or hearing the British national anthem once, or perhaps even twice, or seeing the bikes roar through Woodcote and on to Copse, or even the chance to watch a British round of MotoGP without getting wet, as so far, it is predicted to be a dry weekend - but one of the best is the Day of Champions, held on Thursday 29th August, the day before the on-track action begins. It is a very full day of activities to help keep the crowds entertained, and well worth the paltry £15 entrance fee, all of which goes towards helping Riders for Health.
The action centers around the main stage, with a mixture of chat, quizzes, live music, and topped off with the Day of Champions auction. There is also plenty to do in the pits and paddock, as access includes entrance to the otherwise-closed paddock. BBC TV presenters Matt Roberts and Steve Parrish will be hosting the 'Question of Bikes' quiz, where contestants will be asked questions from motorcycle racing's rich history. Legendary Eurosport commentator Julian Ryder will host a chat on stage with some of the top Moto2 and Moto3 riders, which is always fascinating and gives the audience a chance to hear from the stars of tomorrow (and today). And at the end of the day, Roberts and Ryder are joined by Toby Moody and Gavin Emmett to host the Riders for Health auction at which a host of fantastic memorabilia and signed items go on sale. The Day of Champions auction is your best chance of buying something truly unique from your favorite riders. Some of the items up for auction are listed below, but there will be an awful lot more there as well, if past years are a guide.
With the 2013 MotoGP season at its halfway mark, now is a good time to take a look back and examine the engine usage for the teams and riders. In 2012, with the engine durability regulations in their third full season, the factories appeared to have the situation pretty much under control. The only excitement arose when something unexpected happened, such as Jorge Lorenzo have an engine lunch itself after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista at Assen last year.
For 2013, the engine allocation was reduced from 6 to 5 per season. Each rider now has 5 engines to last the entire season, for use in all timed practice sessions during each race weekend. With three seasons already under their belt, no real drama was expected, yet that is not quite how it has turned out. While Honda and Ducati are right on course to last the season, Yamaha find themselves unexpectedly struggling. An unidentified design flaw has seen Yamaha losing engines too rapidly for comfort. Both factory Yamaha men have had an engine withdrawn, while there are question marks over the life left in one engine each allocated to Valentino Rossi and the two Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders.
Just when it looked like the MotoGP silly season was getting ready to wrap up, a few new developments threw a spanner or two in the works. A week ago, most MotoGP pundits were convinced that Cal Crutchlow would be going to Ducati, Scott Redding would be moving up with his Marc VDS Racing team, and there was next to no interest in Yamaha's leased engines. At the Sachsenring, many things changed, in part at the instigation of Honda, and in part because of Yamaha.
Honda has made the biggest move in the market. At the Sachsenring, credible rumors emerged of Honda attempting to secure both Redding and Crutchlow, in two different moves. HRC's approach to Crutchlow could cause the biggest upset. The Japanese factory is known to be very impressed by Crutchlow, but their dilemma is that all four Honda prototype seats are ostensibly taken for 2014. While both Marquez and Pedrosa have contracts for next year, and Bautista is locked in at Gresini for 2014, Stefan Bradl's seat at LCR Honda could possibly be available. While Bradl is locked in to a two-year deal with HRC, Honda hold the option to decide not to take the second year, potentially freeing up Bradl's bike, and that seat could then be taken by Cal Crutchlow.
The second and final day of testing in Argentina got off to a damp start, with rain falling for much of the morning - the curse of MotoGP, it appears, as it had not previously rained in the area for several months, local sources reported. Not wishing to risk injury in the damp, the MotoGP and Moto2 riders present stayed off the bikes in the morning, mingling instead with the fans. The afternoon saw the sun return, and the riders take to the track once again, putting more laps on the bikes and providing valuable feedback for Yamaha and Honda, as well as for Bridgestone and Dunlop.
Times on the second day were slower than on Thursday, Alvaro Bautista topping the timesheets with a best time of 1'45.578, nearly a second and a half slower than the best time set by Stefan Bradl on Thursday. The rain had made the track a good deal slower, but with just six bikes on track - seven, if you include Randy Mamola, who was giving two-up rides aboard Ducati's X2 machine at the circuit - times were never going to be representative. Once the full MotoGP grid descends on the Termas de Rio Hondo, times are likely to drop by at least a second.
MotoGP bikes have at last taken to the track at Argentina, marking the return of Grand Prix racing to South America for the first time in nine years. All of the riders praised the layout, liking the fast and sweeping nature of some of the sections. Other parts are technical and challenging, but the track appears to have several different lines around it, promising good racing when the series alights for the Argentinian round in 2014.
With a very dusty track, and only six machines present to sweep the dust from the track, it is hard to attach any significance to the times. Stefan Bradl was the fastest man on the day, lapping in the low 1'44s, and testing a lot of tires. Alvaro Bautista was the second quickest man, while Cal Crutchlow was nearly a second off the pace of Bradl. Whether that means that the Termas de Rio Hondo track is a Honda circuit remains to be seen, as the dusty track made it hard for the Yamaha to use its advantage in edge grip at extreme lean. We will only get an idea of the real balance of power in Argentina once the full MotoGP grid turns up.
The bikes have finally hit the track at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina. Pushbikes, that is ... Cal Crutchlow, Alvaro Bautista, Hector Barbera, Stefan Bradl and Tito Rabat have all spent time lapping the Argentinian circuit ahead of the two-day test which starts on Thursday, some circulating on bicycles, some lapping the track in rental cars.
First reports from the track are positive, with all of the riders tweeting that they like the layout. It appears to be a fast track, with several fast, sweeping corners, the kind of track which riders love, and as promised by the race organizers when they announced the race just over a year ago at Assen. It would be the fastest track on the calendar, was the promise. The general assessment is that the track looks safe, with no dangerous areas, which is a major positive for the track.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Le Mans: