Pol Espargaro has topped the opening MotoGP free practice session during a cool and cloudy morning at the Dutch TT in Assen. The Tech 3 Yamaha rider finished the session with a time of 1:34.530 which was a tenth ahead of his older brother Aleix and impressively inside the existing circuit race lap record. Jorge Lorenzo set the third fastest time ahead of a ragged Marc Marquez and Englishman Bradley Smith.
Valentino Rossi made it five Yamaha's in the top six finishing ahead of his countryman Andrea Dovizioso and race lap record holder Dani Pedrosa. Alvaro Bautista posted the ninth fastest lap ahead of fellow satellite Honda rider Stefan Bradl. The session was not interrupted by rain, but reports of heavy showers in surrounding areas means that the Assen weather (as usual) will be something to watch out for over the course of the weekend.
May I be permitted a little bias for the MotoGP round held in my adopted country? There are many magical motorcycle races around the world. The Isle of Man TT has speed, danger, and one of the most remarkable backdrops in motorsports. Mugello has an astounding track, a hothouse atmosphere, and breathtaking scenery. Jerez has an intensity among the fans without equal, hosted in a beautiful part of the world when Andalusia is at its best, in the spring.
But I think I would still swap them all for Assen. Once, it was the greatest racetrack in the world. Fast, flowing, with challenges favoring any rider with the perfect combination of bravery and skill. Full of fast kinks, banked turns, and with a camber and crown to the surface that was a throwback to the public roads which once comprised the circuit. Throughout the years, the circuit was pruned back, from 16 kilometers, to just under 8 kilometers, to 6 kilometers. In 2006, the track was neutered altogether, as a combination of financial necessity and encroaching housing development saw the North Loop, the jewel in Assen's crown, surgically removed and replaced with the much smaller, much shorter loop which now quickly folds back on itself and takes the riders back to the old southern section, where the old glory of the track lives on.
Hard braking for De Haarbocht, named for the village now absorbed by Assen's urban sprawl, the everlasting right hander through Madijk and Ossebroeken round to the Strubben hairpin. A hard, short turn onto the Veenslang, the back straight. Straight? Not so much: the literal translation is 'turf snake', and snake it does, down to the blistering right-left-right of the Ruskenhoek chicane. Through the right at Stekkenwal, and another snaking straight down to De Bult – 'the lump' and a very lumpy corner it is indeed. From there it is all rights, building speed through Mandeveen, Duikersloot, and Meeuwenmeer, on to perhaps the most perfect piece of race track in the world. First, there's the Hoge Heide – 'High Heath' – the right-left flick that looks like nothing at all on a track map, but is one of the most intimidating corners on the planet. Making that change of direction at over 270 km/h is not easy, especially as you still have to lift the bike over the crown of the track, avoiding the dip on the far end of the flick. The run through the Ramshoek, a hot-and-fast left, before the Geert Timmer bocht, the chicane named after the legendary racer and circuit commissioner.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of Saturday's Dutch TT at Assen:
In the fourth part of the Tech 3 team's Insight series, the focus shifts away from the garage and behind the scenes. As sponsorship is vital to the continued existence of a team, communication plays a key role. The communications team ensures that riders speak to the media and meet the fans and sponsors, ensure that the media get the information that they need to write about the team, and fans can follow the exploits of the team through the website and social media. Below is the Tech 3 press release explaining just how the communications part works:
Insight part 4: The communications team
In the current age of MotoGP the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team does not just have to be fast on track, but also the communications side needs to run seamlessly and proficiently. To organise and coordinate this there is another ‘team’ than the one seen in the garage. This other squad is the communications team whose roles will be examined in this ‘Insight’ to illustrate the relentless efforts of the four members to guarantee success on the track.
Before a suitcase has even been packed for any member of the Tech3 team, the rider’s schedules need to be coordinated. This schedule certifies that the riders have a plan of action with regards to global media requests, events for sponsors, signing sessions with fans as well as structuring their busy weeks. Milena Koerner is the Tech3 team’s communication & press coordinator who efficiently handles this highly significant role and is present at every Grand Prix on the calendar. Cardinal tasks include coordinating all guest and sponsor accreditation to the event, organising sponsor requests such as rider appearances as well as supervising all press or media enquires. The communication & press coordinator also crucially oversees all activities for the guests at the events, pit tours and the pre event guest documentation to guarantee satisfaction for the guests.
The situation at Ducati was the talk of the paddock in Barcelona. With Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone and Cal Crutchlow being linked to Suzuki, Crutchlow having a contract for 2015, Ducati keen to retain the services of both Dovizioso and Iannone, and Iannone openly pushing for a seat in the factory Ducati team, the Bologna factory faces a series of complex contract negotiations. To check on the state of play with Ducati, we cornered Ducati Corse's MotoGP Project Director Paolo Ciabatti.
What was meant to be just a brief chat turned into a much longer conversation, on a range of subjects. Ciabatti gave his view of the situation with Cal Crutchlow, as well as his hopes of retaining both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone. He discussed the rumors concerning an approach to Jorge Lorenzo, and reflected on having had Valentino Rossi in the Ducati team. He gave us an update on Ducati's plans to provide more Open bikes for 2015. And finally, he turned his attention to the return of Michelin, and Ducati's hopes for the new tire manufacturer.
MotoMatters.com: It appears that Ducati's problem this year is that Cal Crutchlow has a two-year contract, while you also have Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone who are both riding very well. And only two seats in the factory team...
Paolo Ciabatti: As most people in the paddock know, we have a two-year contract with Cal, but he has a way out of the contract. Having said so, we invested in Cal because we wanted very strongly to have him with Ducati, and the fact that so far things have not worked in the way we all hoped is due, honestly I don't believe in luck or bad luck, but in his case, we must admit some of the things have been particularly going wrong on the technical side with no explanation. Because he has exactly the same treatment as Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, and his team has actually been working together since a long time. Dovi's team was put together last year, after Valentino [Rossi] left, but Cal's team is Nicky's [Hayden] former team, and has been together for a long time. Daniele Romagnoli joined instead of Juan Martinez, but it is a very good team. So it's difficult for us to really understand why these things have happened.
The Suzuki MotoGP team issued the following press release after completing their three day test at Barcelona:
SUZUKI MOTOGP UPBEAT AFTER BARCELONA TEST
Team Suzuki Press Office – June 18.
The Suzuki MotoGP Test Team has completed a busy and positive three-days of testing at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit in Spain today.
Test rider Randy De Puniet was joined by Takuya Tsuda for the official MotoGP test with the current series riders and teams; and then a private test today to evaluate several new revisions to the development 2015 Suzuki machine that included a new-specification engine, plus electronic ignition and chassis revisions.
With weather conditions fluctuating over the three-days, but averaging 25° Air/ 35° Track temperatures, De Puniet put-in his fastest lap on the opening day with a time of 1’43”683. Over the three days, he completed 200 laps of the 4.655 km, 16-corner circuit. Tsuda, who was supporting De Puniet and adding to the Suzuki MotoGP data-logging and evaluation of the new parts and settings at the event, completed a total of 103 laps.
In this week's post-race debrief press release, Bridgestone's chief engineer discusses the challenges faced by the factory in balancing grip and durability at the tricky Barcelona circuit. Azuma also discusses the new front tire which the riders tested and praised at the test on Monday. The press release appears below:
Catalan MotoGP™ debrief with Masao Azuma
Wednesday, 18 June 2014
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium & Hard; Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Hard (Main), Soft (Alternative)
Last weekend’s Catalan Grand Prix at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was one for the ages, with a thrilling three-way battle for victory between Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi producing one of the most exciting encounters in recent years. Ultimately it was Marquez who claimed victory to extend his perfect record in 2014, with Rossi finishing second and Pedrosa third.
After a hot start to the weekend, temperatures cooled down on Sunday with a peak track temperature of 40°C recorded during the twenty-five lap Catalan Grand Prix.
Q&A with Masao Azuma – Chief Engineer, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
Temperatures on Friday and Saturday were extremely hot, but then we had a cool change on Sunday. Did this have an effect on race tyre choice for riders, and how did it affect tyre performance?
MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Homage to Catalunya
In September Scotland will decide whether it wants to split from Great Britain, after three centuries together. Two months later the Catalan people will vote in a referendum to decide whether Catalunya will split from Spain, also after 300 years together, following the conquest of the region by the Bourbon kings.
This is a huge political issue, much bigger than anything to do with motorcycling, but if Catalunya does gain the independence it craves it will become the greatest bike racing nation on earth, even greater than Spain.
Though most of the MotoGP teams packed up and headed to Assen after the MotoGP test on Monday, Suzuki and the Ducati test team remained. The two factories continued testing on Tuesday, in between tests with some of the top Moto2 teams, including Marc VDS, Aspar, AGR, and Technomag.
Suzuki continued the hard work of preparing for their return next year. They are continuing to work on a new engine, but the biggest headache they face is with the electronics. The process of porting and reengineering their software to work with the spec Magneti Marelli hardware is taking more time than they thought, and it still needs plenty of development before it is ready.
The Moto2 teams testing were working on performance for this year. No times were released, but according to the MotoGP.com website, Jonas Folger posted the fastest unofficial time, a lap of 1'45.6. Folger was working on the WP suspension his team uses, as well as on braking. Tito Rabat was second fastest with a 1'46.4, while Marc VDS teammate Mika Kallio spent his time working with a new swingarm. For Maverick Vinales, the test was another chance to continue to work on set up and adapting to the Moto2 class.
2014 Barcelona MotoGP Test Round Up: Yamaha's Busy Schedule, Ducati's Shortcomings, And An Alternative Track Layout
It should hardly come as a surprise that Marc Marquez should be fastest man on the day at the post-race test at Barcelona. The Spaniard has been the standout of the season, and for him to be fastest, even at a track where he has not dominated like at others, is starting to become par for the course. More of a surprise is the name of the man in second. Bradley Smith came up just four hundredths short of Marquez, making up for a mediocre race on Sunday, caused by a tire which was not performing as expected. The first thing Smith did when he started testing in earnest this morning was to try the same tire he used in the race. It was a tire which had already been used on Saturday, yet he was immediately as fast as he was in the race, and ended up going four tenths of a second faster on the same tire. Smith had something to prove, and matching Marquez' time did just that. Now he just needs to replicate it in a race.
Press releases from the teams after the MotoGP test at Barcelona:
Final times from the MotoGP test at Barcelona:
Marc Marquez continues at the top of the test timesheets with just a couple of hours left in the MotoGP test. The Spaniard is a third of a second faster than Jorge Lorenzo, who together with Valentino Rossi is testing a new exhaust system. Pol Espargaro is in 3rd, despite not having much to test, and is ahead of Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda. Valentino Rossi finally started testing shortly after noon, but so far has only managed the 10th fastest time. Suzuki's Randy De Puniet has been busy, but remains 3.3 seconds off the pace of Marquez.
Times at 4pm:
Testing is underway at the Circuit de Catalunya, the MotoGP riders not given a chance to recover from yesterday's thrilling race. Aleix Espargaro set the early pace, before Marc Marquez took over at the top just before noon. All eyes are on Suzuki, as the riders assess whether the bike can be competitive and a viable alternative for their current rides. Currently, Randy De Puniet is 3.7 seconds off the pace on the XRH-1.
The day started with a test of a revised layout, using the tight F1 double corner at La Caixa instead of the grand sweep of Turn 10. The test was done at the request of some of the riders in the safety commission, over concerns at a lack of run off at the end of the back straight. Turn 10 is the corner were the most crashes happen, but it is a signature corner for the Barcelona track, and it would be a tragedy to lose it.
Times at 12 noon: