With seven minutes remaining in the first Moto2 free practice at the Circuit of the Americas Friday, Johann Zarco claimed the top spot and didn't let go. Zarco's 2'11.788 put him one-tenth of a second clear of the tight field at the Texas track. Xavier Simeon, who spent most of FP1 lingering around the bottom of the top 10, set a final, blistering lap with no time remaining to claim the second-fastest time.
Tito Rabat, race winner in Qatar, managed third, just ahead of Dominic Aegerter (4th) and Simone Corsi (5th). Takaaki Nakagami, who led much of the early session dropped into sixth as the pace quickened at the end.
Maverick Vinales, last year's Moto3 champion, settled into seventh, a tenth ahead of Mattia Passini. Ant West, who low-sided while holding the fifth-fastest time with five minutes remaining, ended his first practice in ninth, followed by Jordo Torres.
Last year's winner, Nicolas Terol, managed only 22nd, which was six places ahead Josh Herrin (28th), the only American on the track in Texas for Moto 2.
2014 Austin MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Edwards Retires, Blandspeak Returns, And The Dearth Of US Racers
It was fitting – some might say inevitable – that Colin Edwards chose the Grand Prix of the Americas in his home state of Texas to announce his retirement. He had just spent the last couple of weeks at home, with his growing kids, doing dad stuff like taking them to gymnastics and baseball and motocross, then hosted a group, including current GP riders and a couple of journos, at his Bootcamp dirt track school. He had had time to mull over his future, then talk it over with his wife Ally, and come to a decision. There wasn't really a much better setting for the double World Superbike champion to announce he was calling it quits than sitting next to former teammate Valentino Rossi, the American he fought so memorably with in 2006, Nicky Hayden, the latest US addition to the Grand Prix paddock Josh Herrin, and with Marc Marquez, prodigy and 2013 MotoGP champion. It felt right. Sad, but right.
You can read the full story of Edwards' retirement here, but his announcement highlighted two different problems for motorcycle racing. One local, one global, and neither particularly easy to fix. The loss of Colin Edwards sees the MotoGP paddock, indeed all of international motorcycle racing, robbed of its most outspoken and colorful character. Edwards was a straight talker, with a colorful turn of phrase and uninhibited manner of speech. His interviews were five parts home truths, five parts witticisms and a handful of obscenities thrown in for good measure. He livened up press conferences, racing dinners, and casual conversations alike.
Press release previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's race in Austin:
The Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas is a difficult track to get right. The track features a mixture of both flowing and tricky sections, as well as fast straights with hard braking corners. To help give fans an insight into both setting up a bike for the track and the right approach to riding the circuit, the Marc VDS Racing team issued a press release in which Moto2 rider Mika Kallio explains his approach to the track. A fascinating look at this still relatively new circuit:
Mika Kallio: It’s all about compromise at the Circuit of Americas
Gosselies, Belgium – 5 April 2014: The Circuit of the Americas, situated on the outskirts of Austin in Texas, plays host to round two of the Moto2 World Championship next weekend.
The track, the first purpose built Grand Prix facility in the United States, runs in an anti-clockwise direction and features 11 left-hand and nine right-hand corners within its 3.4 mile or 5.5 kilometre length
The track made its debut on the Moto2 calendar in 2013 and Mika Kallio finished the inaugural Grand Prix of the Americas on the podium in third place, after a race long battle with Dominique Aegerter and Tito Rabat, who joins him this season in the Marc VDS team.
HRC are to have a get a new president. After five years, Tetsuo Suzuki is to step down as present of Honda's racing department, and move back towards the production side of the business. He is to be replaced by Yoshishige Nomura, a man with a long history in HRC. Nomura was involved in the engineering of some of Honda's most classic engines, including the NR750, the RC30 and RC45. He also had a role in the 990cc V5 RC211V MotoGP machine. Nomura will oversee all of Honda's racing activities, while HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto will look after the day-to-day running of Honda's involvement in MotoGP.
The HRC press release issued announcing Nomura's appointment appears below:
Yoshishige Nomura introduced as new HRC President
Today, Honda Racing Corporation have announced a new President to take the reins from Tetsuo Suzuki.
The Monster Tech 3 team are producing a series of press release offering some background information on the practical side of MotoGP. The first in the series is a fascinating insight into what it takes to transport all of the bikes, tools, equipment and other paraphernalia necessary for racing around the world to allow the Tech 3 MotoGP and Moto2 teams to contest the world championship. It is an intriguing read. The press release appears below:
Insight - Part1: Logistical Organisation
As the lights on the starting grid turn green on a Sunday, a flurry of excitement descends upon the motorsport planet who become captivated for 45 solid minutes as adrenaline levels soar for everyone, watching the most entertaining two wheeled motorsport series on the planet. However, what needs to be undertaken ‘behind the scenes’ to ensure this happens 18 times a year?
The Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team aims to shed light on the actions and endeavours that take place for a Grand Prix race operation before a wheel has even been turned. This documentary series entitled ‘Insight’ will offer inside information, introduce key members of the team, cover various aspects of the business, and examine routines which have to be undertaken to race. There is no better way to begin this exciting and innovative series than illustrating the coordination required to move the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Teamd the Tech3 Racing Moto2 Team from one international race circuit to another, both inside Europe and for ‘Flyaway’ races.
The Idemistu Honda Team Asia today issued a press release with a clarification on Takaaki Nakagami's disqualification after the Moto2 race at Losail. Nakagami's Kalex was found to be fitted with an illegal air filter during a technical inspection, as Race Director Mike Webb explained to the MotoGP.com website. Webb acknowledged that the error was entirely unintentional, and was a result of misinterpreting the technical rules.
Tady Okada, the former 500GP racer winner who now runs Idemitsu Team Asia, explained in the press release that they had failed to interpret the rules correctly. At the time the team took part in the first test, at the end of 2012, the foam air filter which is part of the HRC race kit was legal. The team fitted this part for testing, and continued to use the part throughout the 2013 season and the first race of 2014. However, for the 2013 season, the use of a standard paper filter was made compulsory, and the use of the foam filter was banned.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first race of the season at Qatar:
2014 Qatar MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Of Deserving Winners, Old Champions, And The Correct Way To Celebrate Victory
There's an old racing adage: when the flag drops, the talking stops, though the word 'talking' is rarely used. It's a cliche, but like all cliches, it is a cliche because it reflects such a basic truth. Without bikes circulating on track in anger, fans and press have nothing to do but engage in idle speculation, and pick over the minutiae of rules, rumors and races long past. As soon as the racing starts again, all is forgotten, and we all lose ourselves in the now. It is the zen which all racing fans aspire to.
So after spending months going round in circles over the 2014 regulations, speculating about who they favor, and expressing outrage at either the perceived injustice of the rules, or the supposed incompetence of those involved in drawing them up at the last minute, the talk stopped at Qatar on Sunday night. The fans filled their bellies on three outstanding races, all of which went down to the wire. With something once again at stake, all talk of rules was forgotten.
And to be honest, the 2014 rules had none of the negative effects which so many people had feared. The best riders on the day still ended up on the podium, while the gap between the winner and the rest of the pack was much reduced. The gap from the winner to the first Ducati was cut from 22 seconds in 2013 to 12 seconds this year. The gap from the winner to Aleix Espargaro – first CRT in 2013, first Open class rider in 2014 – was cut from 49 seconds to just 11 seconds. And even ignoring Espargaro's Yamaha M1, the gap to the first Honda production racer – an outstanding performance by Scott Redding on the Gresini RCV1000R – was slashed to 32 seconds.
Penalties Galore: Takaaki Nakagami Disqualified For Illegal Air Filter, Penalty Points For Cortese And Simeon
Race Direction were busy at Qatar. Penalties were handed out for one incident during Moto2 qualifying practice on Saturday and two incidents during the Moto2 race on Sunday. Sandro Cortese and Xavier Simeon were handed one penalty point a piece, while Takaaki Nakagami was disqualified for using an illegal air filter in his Idemitsu Honda Moto2 machine.
The disqualification of Nakagami was the most far-reaching of the punishments. During the standard technical inspection after the race, Takaaki Nakagami's Kalex Honda was found to be using an illegal air filter. Under Moto2 regulations, only the standard filter supplied with the spec Moto2 engine may be used. Though the error by Nakagami's crew was believed to have been an honest mistake, the rule book is very clear. The Idemitsu Honda team appealed against the penalty, but their appeal was rejected.
Updated Results Below:
2014 Qatar MotoGP Saturday Round Up - Marquez' Miracle, Espargaro Under Pressure, And Honda Back In Moto3 Business
On Thursday night, it looked like a revolution had been unleashed in MotoGP. After qualifying on Saturday, that revolution has been postponed. Three Spaniards on pole, two Spaniards on the front row for both MotoGP and Moto3. No prizes for guessing the names of any of the polesitters, all three were hotly tipped favorites at the beginning of the year.
So what has changed to restore order to the proceedings? In a word, track time. When the riders took to the track on Thursday, the factory riders had a lot of catching up to do. They had been down at Phillip Island, a track which has lots of grip and puts plenty of load into the tires. The heat resistant layer added to the 2013 tires really comes into its own, the track imbuing the riders with confidence. Qatar is a low grip track, thanks in part to the cooler temperatures at night, but the sand which continuously blows onto the track also makes it extremely abrasive, posing a double challenge to tire makers. Use rubber which is too soft, and the tire is gone in a couple of laps. Make it hard enough to withstand the abrasion, and it's hard to get the tire up to temperature.
Coming to Qatar is always tricky, riders needing time to build confidence and learn to trust the tires. Coming to Qatar from Phillip Island is a culture shock, and takes a while to get your head around. Riders need to throw away everything they have just learned, and start again. That, Bradley Smith explained, was one of the reasons he was on the front row – his first in MotoGP, a significant achievement for the young Briton – and the factory Movistar Yamaha riders weren't. 'Australia wasn't great for the factory guys, because they got to ride a tire which isn't this one,' he told the press conference. Smith and the other satellite riders had come from Sepang, another low-grip track, and spent three more days on the same tire and in similar grip conditions. 'Testing here ten days ago has helped a lot,' Smith concluded.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Qatar: