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 the Moto3 and Moto2 teams after qualifying at the Sachsenring:
Full Recap and Results Below:
Jack Miller has made taken advantage of glorious sunny conditions to make it three out of three by once again topping the time sheets for the third Moto3 free practice session. The Australian's time of 1:26.767, set during a scintillating run of sub 1:27 laps, put him half a second clear of Danny Kent in second. It also put him half a second inside Alex Rins' pole record from last year and two tenths inside Luis Salom's circuit lap record.
Alexis Masbou, Brad Binder and Jakub Kornfeil rounded out the top five some eight tenths shy of Miller's benchmark. Alex Rins had his second crash of the weekend early in the session as the track was left slippery from an overnight storm, Karel Hanika also crashed shortly after. Both riders were unharmed and finished proceedings eleventh and twentieth respectively.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at the Sachsenring:
Jack Miller has topped the second session of free practice for the Moto3 class at the Sachsenring, stamping his authority on the class with a late charge. Miller had been fast throughout, but the KTM man pushed towards the end to secure top spot. Frenchman Alexis Masbou took 2nd on the Ongetta Honda, a quarter of a second behind Miller.
Englishman Danny Kent has found his old form in Germany, getting up to 3rd in the second session of practice on the Husqvarna, and ending ahead of Efren Vazquez on the RTG Honda. The two Estrella Galicia Hondas of Alex Rins and Alex Marquez made a little progress, Marquez moving up to 7th and Rins ending in 12th, though both men are over eight tenths behind title rival Miller.
Jack Miller has topped the first session of free practice for the Moto3 class at the Sachsenring. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider was fast throughout the session, swapping the lead with Brad Binder and Romano Fenati, before pulling out a very fast lap at the end of the practice. Efren Vazquez put the RTG Honda into 2nd, just edging out Binder on the Mahindra, while Fenati was forced to settle for 4th.
The Estrella Galicia Hondas of Alex Rins and Alex Marquez got off to a poor start after a strong race at Assen. Rins ended the session in 12th, just under a second off the pace of Miller, while Marquez was a lowly 17th. Rins had a small off at the end of the practice session, but walked away unhurt.
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 some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams, as well as Dunlop, ahead of this weekend's German Grand Prix:
Marc VDS Press Release: Michael Bartholémy Responds To Criticism Of Moto3 Project, Says No Team Orders In Moto2
The Marc VDS Racing team has been at the center of debate in MotoGP's support classes recently. First, there was the affair with Jack Miller and his contract with the Marc VDS team, and then at Assen, the team faced a hail of criticism from the Belgian and Dutch media over the level of support offered to Moto3 rider Livio Loi.
The team's response has been to issue press releases. On Friday, a press release was issued stating categorically that the team has a binding contract with Jack Miller. And today, in the team's Sachsenring preview, team manager Michael Bartholémy sets out in detail precisely what bike Livio Loi had been given to ride at Assen. The team had been disappointed in the progress of the young Belgian rider, but Loi was insistent that the Kalex KTM was no longer a competitive package. The team had demanded Loi lived up to the results set out in the contract they have with him. Loi countered that if he had a factory KTM, he would be competitive. Marc VDS purchased a KTM, but a factory bike was not available. Instead, they purchased a production RC250R, and then fitted it with all of the available factory parts to bring it as close as possible to a factory bike. Whether Loi will continue with the team after the summer break remains to be seen. In the press release, Bartholémy makes it clear that the project cannot continue if there is no improvement.
The Marc VDS Racing team press release preview, packed with more interesting details than most press releases, appears below:
Jack Miller is a rider in demand. The current leader in the Moto3 world championship has been linked to several top teams, and has been openly flirting with a step up to MotoGP, skipping Moto2 altogether. The fly in the ointment for Miller is the pre-contract he signed with the Marc VDS Racing team in 2013, securing his services for 2014, 2015 and 2016. Under the terms of the contract, Miller was released to ride for the Red Bull KTM Ajo team in Moto3, as Miller was keen to have a shot at the Moto3 title before moving up a class.
That situation appears to have caused some confusion. Jack Miller told the media as recently as Assen that he has no contract to ride for 2015, and is free to race wherever he wants. That is a position which was earlier laid out in a press release from the Red Bull KTM Ajo team, in which Miller made the same statement. Marc VDS Racing and their team manager Michael Bartholémy insist that this is not the case, and the situation has gotten so far out of hand that the Marc VDS team has issued a press release of their own, clarifying the deal which they have with the Australian.
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.
2014 Assen Post-Race Round Up - Of Tire Gambles, The Wisdom Of Thinking For Yourself, And Lorenzo's Fear
A veritable galaxy of stars may have lined up on the grid for the 84th Dutch TT at Assen, but the real stars of the show were the elements. After the rain wreaked havoc on qualifying, shaking up the grid, it was back on Saturday for two of the three races. Riders and teams were forced to rethink their strategy, make decisions quickly, and gamble on tires and the weather. It made for intriguing races, rather than sheer thrills like the MotoGP race at Barcelona. Changing conditions offered the brave and the smart opportunities, and mercilessly punished anyone who got it wrong. You felt for the 45 minutes of the races that anything could happen.
The Moto3 riders had it easiest of all, conditions cool but relatively consistent. The track did not allow for mistakes, however: Jack Miller's strategy of trying to pull a gap early backfired badly, the Australian crashing out of the lead. Miller's saving grace was that Romano Fenati, his main rival in the title chase, made even bigger mistakes than he did, crashing out twice, and failing to score points. The day belonged to the Hondas, with Alex Marquez controlling the race from the front, despite challenges from teammate Alex Rins and a quickly closing Miguel Oliveira. With two Hondas and a Mahindra on the podium, this was the first time since Le Mans 2012 that a KTM was not on the podium, and the first ever Moto3 race where a KTM engine did not power any of the podium bikes.
Conditions were much trickier for the Moto2 riders, rain falling heavily before the race, but then quickly starting to dry. It was clear that if the rain held off, a dry line would soon appear, and a few riders gambled on fitting a slick rear. The rain did not hold off, however, falling heavily again in the early laps. That put riders like Dominique Aegerter, who had reckoned on using a slick rear, a long way behind the leaders, his tire only coming good in the second half of the race. The rain allowed Simone Corsi and Sam Lowes to get away at the front, pulling a big lead in a short period. The pair looked set to dispute victory between the two of them, but Lowes pushed a little too hard, losing the front and going down. Corsi could have just cruised to victory, but that proved too much to ask, the NGM Forward rider crashing out of a commanding lead at the halfway mark.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the races in Assen: