2014 World Champion Marc Marquez has displayed ominous consistency on his way to heading the MotoGP FP2 session at his home track in Valencia, his time of 1:31.454 was two tenths slower than his quickest time in the morning's session but was enough to put him a tenth clear of Andrea Dovizioso in second. Aleix Espargaro continued his strong Friday form to post the third fastest time and edge out Jorge Lorenzo who made it three Spaniards in the top four.
Cal Crutchlow continued to show newly found pace aboard his Ducati to take fifth spot - just over two tenths away from Marquez' best time. Dani Pedrosa focused on fine-tuning his race setup and ended up a further two tenths behind Crutchlow. Honda rider Stefan Bradl ended seventh on the time sheets ahead of Tech 3 riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith while Valentino Rossi rounded out the top ten. 'The Doctor' was six tenths shy of pace-setter Marquez and has work to do in order to be thereabouts for qualifying tomorrow and more importantly for the race on Sunday.
The last race of the season is always a little bit special. They are even more special when riders are still scrapping over the spoils, battling for titles, for positions, for honor. There is much at stake at Valencia: a Moto3 title, second place in the MotoGP and Moto2 championships, and the team championship in MotoGP. Above all, though, there is victory, the glory of joining the elite band of Grand Prix winners. At the end of the day, that is what motivates motorcycle racers most on any given Sunday.
Top billing at Valencia is the race which is first, but with the most at stake. On Sunday, Jack Miller and Alex Marquez will slug it out for the 2014 Moto3 World Championship. The race at Sepang set up a fantastic season finale, with Miller riding an intimidating race to cut Marquez' championship lead. Just 11 points separate the two men, putting Marquez easily within reach of the Australian. But Miller will need help: it is not enough for him to win, he also needs to put a few riders between himself and the Estrella Galicia Honda of Marquez. As Miller found out at Sepang, that risks letting someone else slip ahead of him, making his quest even more difficult.
The math is relatively simple. Those 11 points would be enough for Miller to take the title, the Australian already having more wins than the younger Marquez. That means finishing ahead of the Estrella Galicia Honda, but above all, keeping him off the podium. A 3rd place finish would be enough for Marquez to lift the title, even if Miller were to win the race. Things get more difficult if Miller doesn't win: if he finishes second, then 6th will do for Marquez; if Miller ends in 3rd, then 11th will be sufficient for the Spaniard. If Miller doesn't get a top five finish, then his title ambitions are gone.
Suzuki issued the following press release, in which they preview their wildcard appearance at the final round of MotoGP at Valencia, and look ahead to their full-time return from Valencia onwards:
SUZUKI RE-LAUNCH INTO MOTOGP THIS WEEKEND!
Team Suzuki Press Office – November 5.
The prologue to Suzuki’s latest chapter of Grand Prix racing will open this weekend when the revitalised works team roll into action with the refined version of the GSX-RR at the Ricardo Tormo circuit for the Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana.
Randy De Puniet’s presence as a ‘wild-card’, overseen by the experience and expertise of Davide Brivio, and with the honed GSX-RR, will mark the first time the factory is back on the grid of the premier class since the same Grand Prix in 2011. The outing represents a competitive statement-of-intent ahead of the first testing run for the 2015 season that will take place on Monday and a matter of hours after the last chequered flag of the 2014 championship.
Suzuki has been riding, analysing and testing comprehensively in 2014 with sessions at Grand Prix venues of Sepang, Termas de Rio Hondo, Circuit of the Americas, Phillip Island and Catalunya and have now chosen to re-join the fray and bring a manufacturer with 40 years of Grand Prix history and six (Rider) titles in the premier class back to the sharp-edge of the sport.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of the final Grand Prix of the season at Valencia:
Hiroshi Aoyama is to become a test rider for Honda in 2015. The future of the Japanese rider was uncertain after Eugene Laverty was signed to race with the Aspar team for next year, and Aoyama's options in the MotoGP paddock were limited. As a rider who has spent almost his entire career with Honda, including winning the last ever 250cc championship in 2009, Aoyama was the logical choice to take on a role as test rider.
Aoyama's work will commence on Friday at Valencia. Honda have brought the RC213V-RS to Valencia, the bike which is to replace the RCV1000R Open class Honda in 2015. Aoyama is to race the new bike, which features pneumatic valves and a more powerful engine, though it still does not have the seamless gearbox of the factory bikes. Aoyama's performance on the bike this weekend should give an idea of how much more competitive the Open class honda will be next year.
Aoyama will most likely not be Honda's only test rider. HRC are expected to reach an agreement with Casey Stoner to act as test rider for the factory. Aoyama is likely to take the place of one of Honda's other Japanese riders, Shinichi Itoh or Kousuke Akiyoshi.
The press release from Honda announcing Aoyama as a test rider appears below:
HRC announce Aoyama as test rider for 2015
What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics is playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation?
You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.
The root of racing's problem is well-known. Once upon a time, when advertising tobacco products on TV and radio was banned, the cigarette companies needed some way of reaching potential customers. Spotting the loophole in the law, they immediately leaped on sports sponsorship as a means to promote their product. They went for sports which were glamorous, exciting, and had an edge of danger, exactly the image they want to project, and came up with motorsports.
Governments around the world saw the loophole they created, and started to close it down. After some clever negotiating by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, motorsports were given an exemption until 2006, at which time all visible promotion of tobacco products in the sport's major markets was completely banned. The good times were over.
Yonny Hernandez is to remain with the Pramac Ducati squad for the 2015 season, and will race a Factory Option Desmosedici GP14.2 alongside Danilo Petrucci. Though the news had long been known, Ducati today issued a press release officially announcing Hernandez as the second rider at Pramac.
The deal will see Hernandez race with Pramac in 2015, with an option to extend the contract to 2016, though the statement does not make it clear who can exercise the option. Hernandez and Petrucci will race the GP14.2, the bike currently being contested by Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, running Ducati's factory software and using the Ducati performance concessions. This means they will retain the softer tire, 24 liters of fuel, and extra engines and testing for the 2015 season.
The press release from Ducati appears below:
Yonny Hernandez contracts with Ducati to continue with the Pramac Racing Team in 2015 MotoGP World Championship
Ducati Corse is pleased to announce that it has signed an agreement with Yonny Hernandez that will tie the Colombian rider to Ducati for 2015, with an option for 2016.
Casey Stoner has made a temporary return to MotoGP, completing two days of testing for Honda at Motegi. Over the two days of testing, Stoner focused on the 2015 version of Honda's RC213V, the Australian comparing the settings used by Repsol Honda's current riders, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, to see how they work with the new bike. Stoner also worked on preparing the 2015 further ahead of its debut at the Valencia test after the final race of the season. Finally, he also spent some time on the development versions of Michelin's MotoGP tires, as the French manufacturer prepares to take over as spec tire supplier from 2016 onwards. As is their custom with all testing, Honda did not release any lap times.
Stoner volunteered to do the test as compensation for the tests he was scheduled to do in 2013. Those tests were largely rained off due to poor weather in Japan, and Stoner felt he still owed HRC some testing. With better weather conditions at Motegi for this test, the Australian was able to make good on his debt to Honda. According to MCN's Matt Birt, HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto is keen to retain Stoner as a test rider, but agreement is yet to be reached.
As usual after every MotoGP round, Bridgestone issued a press release debrief with one of their top engineers. This time, it is the turn of Masao Azuma to discuss how Bridgestone's tires handled the intense heat of Sepang, and how their new front tire with more edge grip performed:
Malaysian MotoGP™ debrief with Masao Azuma
Wednesday, October 29 2014
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Medium & Hard. Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Hard (Main) & Soft (Alternative)
In sweltering conditions at Malaysia’s Sepang Circuit last Sunday, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez won his twelfth race of the 2014 season ahead of the determined Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo who finished in second and third place respectively.
Extremely hot and humid temperatures over the race weekend created trying conditions for the riders, with Sunday’s race experiencing an ambient temperature of 35°C, while the track temperature reached 55°C. With the sun blazing overhead, Marquez was on a hot streak on track setting a new Sepang Circuit Best Lap record (1'59.791) in qualifying and a new Circuit Record Lap (2'01.150) during the race.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang:
2014 Sepang Sunday Round Up: Beating Doohan, Rabat's Reward For Hard Work, And Miller Mastering Marquez In Moto3
How big a deal is MotoGP in Asia, and especially in Malaysia? There were officially 81,896 spectators at the Sepang International Circuit on Sunday for the races. That is a lot. To put it in perspective, it is the seventh highest attendance of the year, more than either of the US rounds of MotoGP, more than Silverstone, more than either of the Italian rounds. There were 4,400 more spectators at Sepang than at Mugello. That is quite a turnaround: in 2000, the second year MotoGP was held at the circuit, only 32,375 people attended the race, spread over all three days. The three-day total is now close to 131,000.
It is testament to both the growing wealth of the region and the growing popularity of the sport. In the podium press conference, Valentino Rossi reflected on the change. "For a long period, we have no people on Sunday," he said. Little by little attendance had grown, until now, it is a race with an atmosphere all of its own. "Now it is full, the atmosphere on the main straight is like Barcelona or Mugello. The guys are crazy for MotoGP." It was a great victory for the sport, he said. Given that those 82,000 people are mostly sitting outside, in tropical temperatures of 36°C and humidity of over 50%, those guys (and gals) must indeed be 'crazy for MotoGP'.
Their efforts were amply rewarded on Sunday, with three superb races. They saw records equaled in MotoGP, a richly-deserved title tied up in Moto2, and an exhilarating and incident-packed battle in Moto3, which sets up a grand finale for the Moto3 title at Valencia. Reason enough to come back again in force in 2015, with the added benefit of seeing the circuit fielding its own team in Moto3 next year.
Full Recap and Results Below.