Randy de Puniet
Pity poor Jorge Lorenzo. Once again he comes to a test and tops the timesheets, and everyone is talking about someone else. This time, though, he will probably not mind, as he was not really out for glory at the test, just to work on settings before heading to the next test at Aragon on Wednesday. If it isn't rained off that is.
Lorenzo chose to skip the morning session, preferring to rest after an impressive win on Sunday, but once underway he was quickly up to speed hitting the top three after just a couple of laps, and ending the day on top. The Factory Yamaha man had been working on set up, but had also tested a new fuel tank. The new tank does not change the weight balance from the current version used by the factory riders, but it does have a slightly different shape to fit under the seat more comfortably and allow Lorenzo to position himself better on the bike.
Official confirmation of Suzuki's return to Grand Prix racing has come at last. This morning, Suzuki issued a press release announcing that they will be back in MotoGP. The bad news is that they will not return until 2015, deciding instead to spend a year developing the bike before mounting a serious challenge in the series in 2015.
As already reported, Davide Brivio is confirmed as the manager of Suzuki's team, while Randy De Puniet has been officially announced as the development rider for the bike. Nobuatsu Aoki will continue to do a lot of the donkey work in testing, in much the same role as Franco Battaini at Ducati. Both are capable riders willing to grind out the miles and test that everything is working correctly, while De Puniet, like Michele Pirro at Ducati, will try to get the bike up to race speed, to see where its weaknesses lie.
The decision to wait until 2015 makes decisions for riders a little more complex. Riders in the running for the Suzuki seat were informed last week of Suzuki's decision, giving them time to look for alternatives.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after Sunday's GP de Catalunya at Barcelona:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Barcelona:
This is going to be a big weekend in MotoGP, perhaps one of the most significant in a long while. The outcome of Sunday's race is unlikely to be earth-shattering - the chance of the top three being entirely Spanish, and composed of two Repsol Hondas and a Factory Yamaha is pretty large - and the championship will look much the same on Sunday night as it does now. Yet this weekend will be key.
Much of the interest - and intrigue - revolves around the test on Monday. The most visible piece of the MotoGP puzzle will be in the Suzuki garage, where their brand new MotoGP machine is due to make its first real public debut. The bike has had a number of private tests, some more secretive than others, the latest being last week at Motegi with Randy de Puniet. The times that were leaked from that test were respectable, though with only test riders for competition, it is hard to put them into context.
At Barcelona, a public test, with official timing, and up against the full MotoGP field, there will be nowhere to hide. Will the Suzuki be able to match the times of the Hondas and Yamahas? Unlikely, the bike is still at an early stage of development. But it should be faster than the CRT machines, and close to the Ducati satellite bikes. De Puniet's first target will be himself, and the time he sets during practice and the race on the Aprilia CRT he rides for Aspar.
Even more intriguing at the test is what Yamaha will be bringing. Rumors abound that the seamless transmission which the factory is working on is due to be tested soon, with many believing it could get its first official run out in the hands of the factory riders at Barcelona on Monday. Raising further suspicions that something major is afoot in the Yamaha camp is the fact that they also have a test scheduled for Aragon later in the week. If the gearbox is not quite ready to be raced, then Yamaha could wait to try it at Aragon; if it is ready, trying it at two different circuits would be a good way of giving it a thorough workout. The difference between a seamless and a conventional gearbox is audible, so we should know soon enough.
Press release previews from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of this week's Catalonian GP at Barcelona:
While normally, MotoGP fans never get enough of seeing Valentino Rossi on TV, there is one shot they would (for the most part) gladly be spared. Every time the Italian leaves the pits for practice or qualifying, the TV director seems determined to show the same shot, from the camera on the back of Rossi's bike. As he leaves the pits, Rossi stands on the footpegs, and pulls his leathers from between his buttocks, before sitting back down again and leaving.
Why does he do this? Are his Dainese leathers so badly cut that they are continually creeping up between his buttocks whenever he's not on the bike? The answer to that is obviously no, his leathers are custom made to fit perfectly, yet still Rossi does this every time, whether he needs to or not. It is part of the long series of rituals he performs before he hits the track, rituals which include bend over and touching his toes, crouching down and holding the right footpeg, and only getting on from the right side of the bike. These rituals - part useful limbering up, part invocation of Lady Luck - are something many riders perform, in their attempt to exert control over themselves, and over their environment.
In a fascinating press release - by far the most interesting we have received in many months - the Aspar team today provided a discussion and explanation of what riders are trying to achieve through the use of these rituals. The press release - entitled 'Controlling the Uncontrollable' - walks the reader through the many factors which go in to making a champion, and emphasizes the enormous importance of the mental side of the sport. It is a fascinating insight, and a highly recommended read:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after Sunday's Italian Grand Prix at Mugello:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello:
Press release previews from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Mugello:
Randy de Puniet has completed his first two-day test on Suzuki's MotoGP machine. The Frenchman flew to Japan directly after the French round of MotoGP at Le Mans, to take part in the test organized at Motegi's Twin Ring circuit, home of the Japanese round of MotoGP, and a circuit owned by Honda.
Under the terms of his testing contract, De Puniet is unable to say anything official, his manager Eric Mahé telling the French magazine Moto Journal only that the test "went well". Suzuki did not publish any times from the test or provide any other information, but as the MotoGP test teams from both Yamaha and Honda were present, it was inevitable that times would leak out. German-language website Speedweek claims the scoop, with times also to be published in the Spanish magazine Motociclismo, which is out on Tuesday.
According to Speedweek, the test took place in excellent conditions, with temperatures of 28°C and a dry track. The German website reports De Puniet as having posted a time of 1'47.0 on Suzuki's new inline four MotoGP machine, though no other confirmation of that time has been forthcoming. In comparison, that is as fast as Honda test rider Takumi Takahashi on the day, and half a second quicker than Yamaha test rider Katsuaki Nakasuga.
Suzuki's return to MotoGP takes another step closer to being realized this week. Frenchman Randy de Puniet is flying to Japan today to test Suzuki's inline four MotoGP machine at Motegi, as part of the testing program to develop the bike ready for its return in 2014.
In an interview with the official MotoGP.com website, De Puniet said he would be departing on Monday. "We leave tomorrow to go to Japan to test at Motegi with Suzuki," he told MotoGP.com. "It will be a good experience for me, and I hope to do a great job." After testing at Motegi, De Puniet will fly back to Europe to take part in the next round of MotoGP with the Power Electronics Aspar team at Mugello, where he will ride the team's Aprilia ART machine.