2014 Sepang Saturday Round Up: Pole Records, The Secret Of Marquez' Speed, And Ridiculous Scenes In Moto3
Fancy a challenge? Try finding a MotoGP fan who is surprised that Marc Marquez claimed pole position at Sepang on Saturday. It was the Repsol Honda man's thirteenth pole of the season, setting a new record for the most poles in a season. It was a blistering lap, making him the first rider to set an officially timed lap under the two-minute mark, the clock finally stopping at 1'59.791. That time has been bettered only a couple of times during the winter tests at Sepang, when cooler temperatures make for a faster track. But to do it now, when ground temperatures got close to 60°C, making the already slippery surface of Sepang even more greasy, is astonishing. Those kinds of track temperatures are almost, but not quite, enough to cook an egg1.
Marquez' record thirteenth pole also offers an insight into exactly what the secret of his success is. He not only holds the record for the most poles in a season, he is also the current leader in pole position frequency. Marquez has secured 50 poles from 113 qualifying session, giving him a strike rate of just over 44%. The only rider to get near to his domination of qualifying was Mick Doohan, who started from pole from 42.3% of his Grand Prix races. The nearest of Marquez' current rivals is Jorge Lorenzo, who has been on pole for 26.4% of his career in Grand Prix.
Why the emphasis on pole position? This is what Marquez does best: find the absolute limit of the performance envelope of his Honda RC213V, and balance right on the edge of it. Because he can do that for one lap, he perhaps has a better understanding of just where the limit lies over the distance of a race, and how much he has to risk when making a pass. This, perhaps, holds the key to why he currently has the best win rate in all classes of all of the current riders in MotoGP, just edging out Valentino Rossi by 38.4% to 34.8%. Then again, Rossi was racing before Marquez even started riding a motorcycle, and so has had more time to strike a run of bad luck. And of course, there were those two seasons at Ducati as well...
Press releases after qualifying for the MotoGP class from the teams and Bridgestone:
Full Recap and Results Below.
Marc Marquez has headed the field in the final MotoGP practice hit out at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia; the Spaniard recovered well from a crash at turn four in the opening minutes. He lost the front under heavy braking and skidded across the gravel trap, he was able to jog away unharmed. Dani Pedrosa continued his strong weekend and lead for most of the session but eventually settled for finishing seven hundredths shy of his team mate in second, he continued to show impressive race pace however. Jorge Lorenzo made it an all Spanish top three and was a further two tenths behind Pedrosa.
Dani Pedrosa has continued his strong weekend to date and topped the third MotoGP free practice session at Sepang, the Repsol Honda rider showed excellent consistency to edge out his compatriot Jorge Lorenzo by just over a tenth of a second while Marc Marquez completed the top three a further tenth behind. Andrea Dovizioso claimed fourth spot with a quick last ditch lap; the session was red flagged with just over two minutes remaining following a crash for Pol Espargaro. This resulted in a frantic final lap scramble as riders 'on the bubble' poured out of the pit lane and tried to nudge their way into the top ten and Q2 later today.
Stefan Bradl posted the fifth fastest time ahead of Cal Crutchlow, Valentino Rossi and Aleix Espargaro while the Tech 3 pairing of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro rounded out the top ten. Espargaro had two crashes during the session, his second was a massive high side under braking into turn one and caused red flags to be shown as he lay prone on the track, his bike ablaze beside him.
If you wanted a demonstration of just why the weather at Sepang can play such a decisive factor, you need look no further than MotoGP FP2. Fifteen minutes before the MotoGP bikes were set to take to the track, the Moto3 machines were finishing their second free practice session in sunshine and sweltering heat. But a couple of minutes before MotoGP FP2 was meant to start, the heavens opened, producing a deluge that had first-time visitors to Malaysia hunting around for gopher wood with which to build a boat.
The downpour covered the track in several centimeters of standing water, making it impossible to ride. The session was delayed for twenty five minutes, starting after the rain had nearly eased up completely. Once the session got underway, the weather cleared up completely, the last ten minutes taking place in glorious sunshine once again.
The changes in the weather had a dramatic effect on the state of the track. It went from being fully wet, with water everywhere, to having just a thin layer of rainwater on it at the halfway mark, to being dry at most of the corners around the track once the session ended. Full wets were essential at the start of the session, but forty five minutes later, slicks were starting to become a viable option.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Sepang:
Jorge Lorenzo has lead the way during a rain-affected MotoGP FP2 at Sepang; the session was initially delayed by twenty five minutes due to a torrential downpour that fell at the conclusion of Moto3 FP2 as the circuit was blanketed in thick cloud. Once the rain halted the wind picked up and managed to sweep the track and quickly dry it out enough for the riders to emerge from the pit lane. Lorenzo circulated with impressive consistency and ended up at the top of the time sheets, his benchmark time was some thirteen seconds slower than the pace set in the morning's opening practice despite the track drying considerably by the end of the session.
2014 Sepang MotoGP Preview: The End Of MotoGP's Asian Peregrinations Beckon In The Sweltering Sepang Heat
Another week, another 8 hour flight, another race track. Sepang comes as the last of three grueling weekends chasing around the Pacific Ocean to race in Japan, Australia, and now Malaysia. Even from the comfort of my European home (I lack the funds and, to a lesser extent, the inclination to pursue the paddock halfway around the world), it has been a tough schedule, and the riders and team members I have spoken to about it are all just about ready to come home. Nearly a month away from home, sharing flights, hire cars and hotel rooms can be grating even for the best of friends. Add in the stresses and tensions of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and a lot of people are gritting their teeth and doing their best not to punch the people they work with. Some will even make it home without doing so.
The final leg of MotoGP's odyssey sees the circus travel from Phillip Island, nearly halfway to the South Pole, to Sepang, not far north of the equator. Yet though they are a quarter of a world away, the two have one thing in common: weather. The actual conditions may be different, the cold, changeable climate of Phillip Island a far cry from the sweltering heat of Malaysia, but at both tracks, the weather plays a much greater role in the proceedings than at other tracks. Judging conditions, and preparing for them, is crucial.
If anything, putting Sepang at the end of the trio of flyaways is a difficult decision. The heat and intense humidity at the track makes it the most physically demanding of the three races. Severe dehydration lies waiting for the unwary or the out of shape, if they do not drink enough to recover the fluids lost through sweat and exertion. This is a race which richly deserves its reputation as the most punishing of the year.
Along with the Moto3 and Moto2 entry lists, the FIM announced the provisional entry list for MotoGP for the 2015 season. The list contains no surprises, all the signings already announced.
It does, however, contain two question marks, one large, one small. The large one is whether Marco Melandri will be joining Alvaro Bautista in the Gresini Aprilia squad next season, or whether he will stay on in World Superbikes for another year. Melandri is believed to be wary of the Aprilia MotoGP project, given the lack of competitiveness of the bike. For 2016, a new and greatly revised bike is expected, built specifically for MotoGP, rather than the modified RSV4 which they are currently racing. Melandri may be holding out for a year to assess the competitiveness of a new bike. However, if Aprilia do not back any teams in WSBK next year, then Melandri may find that his hand is being forced. No doubt that situation will finally be resolved next week, at the last round of World Superbikes at Qatar.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone previewing this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang:
As usual after each race, Bridgestone issued a press release containing a debrief with one of their senior engineers, reviewing how their tires performed at the previous weekend. Given the events during the race at Phillip Island, this press release will be eagerly awaited in some quarters. In it, Shinji Aoki discusses the difficult weather conditions during the race, especially with the cooling temperatures, the performance of their rear tires at the track, and how the cold affected the asymmetric front tire Bridgestone brought to the circuit. There is no discussion of Jorge Lorenzo's front tire, though a Bridgestone spokesman did issue a response to our colleages over at the Bikesportnews.com website.
Australian MotoGP™ debrief with Shinji Aoki
Tuesday, October 21 2014
Bridgestone slick compounds available:
Front: Extra-soft & Soft (Symmetric) & Soft (Asymmetric). Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main) & Hard (Alternative)
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi won a dramatic Australian Grand Prix last Sunday, leading a Yamaha sweep of the podium in a race where rapidly cooling temperatures created challenging conditions for the riders.
After a warm start to the day, a cool change in the afternoon saw cool winds lower ambient and track temperatures for the race, with the peak track temperature recording of 34°C recorded at the start of the twenty-seven lap race. This year’s Australian Grand Prix saw Bridgestone bring a whole new range of asymmetric rear slick tyres to meet the severe demands of the recently repaved Phillip Island circuit, as well as a newly-developed asymmetric front slick – the first time Bridgestone has offered this technology to MotoGP™ riders.