2014 Phillip Island MotoGP Friday Round Up - Special Tires For A Special Circuit, And The Rules For 2016
Phillip Island is a very special race track. That has an upside – it rewards courage and talent, and has provided some spectacular racing – but it is also special in the more pejoratively euphemistic sense of the word. It challenges not just the riders, but motorcycle designers and racing teams as well. Above all, it challenges tire manufacturers: with wildly varying temperatures, strong winds blowing in cool and damp air off the ocean, an abrasive surface, high-speed corners, more left handers than right handers, and the most of the lefts faster than the rights. It can rain, be bitterly cold, be bathed in glorious sunshine, or in sweltering heat. Try building a tire to cope with all that.
After last year's fiasco, both Dunlop and Bridgestone tried to do just that. They came to the track in March to test tires and gather data to build tires for this weekend. The only minor problem is that the test came at the end of Australia's long summer, and temperatures were much more congenial than now, as the country emerges from its Antipodean winter. The tire selections brought by Dunlop and Bridgestone are much better than last year, but they are not quite perfect. At any other track, that wouldn't be a problem. At Phillip Island, even being not quite perfect can land you in trouble.
That tires are an issue was evident from the number of riders who crashed, both in MotoGP and in Moto2. Most crashed in right handers, a lot going down at MG, which would be one of the most difficult corners of the year wherever it was located, but a fair few followed suit at Hayshed, the right hander that follows on from Siberia (the most aptly named corner on the calendar) and precedes Lukey Heights. There were crashes at the Honda hairpin as well, the other right hander, where hard braking is at a premium.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Phillip Island:
Tito Rabat dominating the second session of free practice for the Moto2 class, laying down a scorching pace through another long run. Rabat did a full race simulation, lapping half a second quicker during his race run than the man in 2nd, Sandro Cortese. Cortese just edged last week's winner, Tom Luthi, who held off Maverick Viñales to claim 3rd. Julian Simon took the 5th spot, just ahead of Mika Kallio, who ended the session in 6th.
Championship leader Tito Rabat has topped the timesheets following a dramatic opening Moto2 free practice session at Phillip Island. The Spaniard posted a time of 1:33.417 and ended the session nearly three tenths clear of his countryman Jordi Torres, who showed a spark that has been missing for the majority of this season. Mika Kallio recovered from an early crash and ended the session in third place a further tenth behind. Thomas Luthi took fourth place but was half a second behind the pace-setter Rabat, while Moto2 rookie Maverick Vinales completed the top 5.
German rider Jonas Folger was looking strong late in the session and took sixth spot ahead of Xavier Simeon and Julian Simon, who lead the session early on. Simon was followed by his team mate Franco Morbidelli in ninth while Sandro Cortese rounded out the top ten.
The Grand Prix Circus has barely had a chance to catch its breath after Motegi before the next round starts in Australia. With a few exceptions, perhaps, a number of teams being forced to either take a much longer route to Australia to avoid the landfall of typhoon Vongfong, or else severely delayed until the worst passed. Still, to call spending even more hours on a plane or at an airport for what is already a very long flight can hardly be regarded as a spot of rest and relaxation.
Still, they have now all gathered at what is almost unanimously regarded as the best racetrack on the planet. Phillip Island is everything a motorsports circuit is suppose to be: fast, flowing, and deeply challenging. There are plenty of spots for a rider to attempt a pass, or try to make up time, but every single one of them requires either exceptional bravery, or the willingness to take a risk. The many brutally fast corners which litter the track separate the men from the boys: Doohan Corner at turn 1, where you arrive at a staggering 340 km/h, turn 3, now dubbed Stoner corner for the way the retired Australian champion would slide both ends through it at over 250 km/h, the approach to Lukey Heights, which drops away to MG, or the final two turns culminating in Swan Corner, speed building throughout before being launched onto the Gardner Straight, and off towards Doohan again. At Phillip Island, there is no place to hide.
After the fiasco of 2013, when both Dunlop and Bridgestone brought tires which would not last the full distance of the race on the resurfaced track. The new surface was two seconds quicker than the old one, putting a lot more heat into the tires than expected. A tire test in March means that the two tire manufacturers now have tires which will last in both Moto2 and MotoGP, meaning that fans can at least be sure of getting their money's worth.
An abbreviated collection of Moto2 and Moto3 preview press releases from the teams, caused by the major travel challenges between Motegi and Phillip Island:
The resurfacing of Phillip Island at the start of 2013 caused a massive problem in both MotoGP and Moto2 during last year's Australian Grand Prix. The vastly improved surface saw lap times drop and corner speeds go up dramatically. Marc Marquez' fastest race lap of the circuit was just over 2 seconds faster than Casey Stoner's best race lap the previous year, and just under Nicky Hayden's lap record of the circuit, which had stood since 2008.
The radically faster surface led to much greater heat build up in the tires, with the rear tires of both Moto2 and MotoGP bikes showing severe and dangerous degradation. The problems forced both Moto2 and MotoGP to be drastically reduced in length, the Moto2 race slashed from 25 to 13 laps, and the MotoGP race cut from 27 to 19 laps, with the added complication of being forced to come in and swap bikes, and hence rear tires. The compulsory pit stop caused a good deal of confusion, eventually leading to the disqualification of Marc Marquez for missing the compulsory pit window.
To avoid a repeat of the situation, both Dunlop and Bridgestone are bringing new tires to the track, with much harder compounds. Both tire manufacturers have been hard at work designing tires to cope with the surface, based on data collected at a test here in March, where the factory Honda, Yamaha and Ducati riders, along with two top Moto2 teams tested a large range of tires. Dunlop and Bridgestone are both now confident that their tires will last the full duration of the race without any major problems.
Marc Marquez had come to Motegi to give Honda the world championship at their home circuit for the first time ever. The Movistar Yamaha team had come to Japan to score a win in front of their home fans, and factory bosses. In the end, the Battle of the Bosses can be declared a draw: Jorge Lorenzo was just about unstoppable on his way to victory, winning in front of Yamaha's top brass. And Marc Marquez nudged his way past Valentino Rossi to take second, finishing ahead of the two men who could prevent him from wrapping up the 2014 MotoGP title. Marquez brought Honda a championship at the circuit they own, in front of the company's CEO, Takanobu Ito. Both Lorenzo and Marquez came to Motegi with a job to do, and they both got the job done.
The win capped a weekend of near perfection at Motegi for Jorge Lorenzo. Qualifying had been the only minor bump on the road to victory, the Movistar Yamaha man forced to start from the second row. He made up for that with raw aggression off the line, sitting Marc Marquez up into the first corner, then picking of the men ahead of him until he sat on the tail of his teammate, Valentino Rossi. Rossi had capitalized on his front row start, leading off the line and into the first corner, shuffling pole sitter Andrea Dovizioso back to second, Lorenzo demoting the Ducati man to third the next corner.
Rossi pushed hard from the off, and Lorenzo was happy to sit quietly on his tail and follow. But once Marc Marquez had gathered his composure again, passed Andrea Iannone, and closed down Andrea Dovizioso, Lorenzo decided he could wait no longer. A hard but clean pass on Rossi at the end of the back straight put Lorenzo in the lead, and though Rossi thought about attacking straight back, he found himself off line and with Dovizioso ready to pounce behind him.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races at Motegi:
Full Recap and Results below:
Ever since he left Ducati at the end of 2010, Casey Stoner has cast a long shadow over the Italian factory. He was the ever-present specter, sitting like Banquo's ghost astride the Desmosedici that any other rider dared swing a leg over. There was a contingent of fans and journalists who, after every poor result by the riders who succeeded Stoner, would point to the Australian's results and say "but Casey won on the Ducati."
What impressed me most about Valentino Rossi's time at Ducati was the calmness and dignity with which he responded to the same question being asked of him, week in, week out. "Valentino," yet another journalist would ask each race, "Casey Stoner won on this bike. Why can't you?" Not once did he lose his temper, ignore the question, or blank the person who asked it. Every week, he would give the same reply: "Casey rode the Ducati in a very special way. I can't ride that way." More than anything, the dignity with which he answered every week were a sign of his humanity, and an exceptional human being. If it takes guts to attempt the switch, it takes even greater courage for someone repeatedly tagged as the greatest of all time to admit failure.
None were immune. Stoner's former teammate Nicky Hayden would be asked why he could not match the pace of the Australian. Andrea Dovizioso had the fortune to come after Rossi, but even he was subjected to comparison with Stoner. Cal Crutchlow was the same, a situation made worse by the fact that he said before he arrived at Ducati that he believed he would be able to ride the Ducati like Stoner. Since arriving at Ducati, he has admitted that he could not.
On Saturday, Andrea Dovizioso may have taken the first step on the path to expelling Stoner's specter from the Ducati garage. The Italian became the first rider to take pole on the Desmosedici since Casey Stoner did so at Valencia in 2010. In fact, he became the first rider other than Casey Stoner to secure pole position on a Ducati since Loris Capirossi in 2006. For Ducati, having Andrea Dovizioso on pole is a very, very big deal. Perhaps even bigger than the factory themselves realize.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Motegi:
Full Recap and Results below: