Alex Lowes has topped the second day of combined testing for teams from both major world championships at Jerez. After another wet morning, the track finally dried out in the afternoon, allowing the riders to post competitive lap times. Lowes ended the day as fastest, the Suzuki rider posting a fast lap right at the end of the day, beating his superpole time from the race weekend here back in September.
Lowes was one of a group of riders who chased a quick time at the end of the day, Kawasaki's Tom Sykes ending just over a tenth of a second behind Lowes, while Leon Haslam put the factory-backed Red Devils Roma Aprilia into third place. Both Aprilia WSBK riders were fast all day, Haslam and possible future teammate Michel Fabrizio dominating proceedings earlier.
Testing is set to continue this week in a range of classes, as bikes take to the track in preparation for the 2015 season. The south of Spain will see the most action, with a group of MotoGP teams being joined by the Crescent Suzuki World Superbike team at Jerez, and a selection of Moto2 teams heading to Almeria.
At Jerez, Suzuki and Aprilia will continue work on their bikes ahead of next season. As new factories, they receive the same concessions as Ducati, which means that they are allowed unlimited testing, more engines, they have the softer rear tire, and they are allowed to develop their engines throughout the season. Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro will be riding the GSX-RR for Suzuki, while Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri will be taking the Aprilia ART out for further testing.
Ducati will also be present at the test, Andrea Dovizioso and new teammate Andrea Iannone continuing work on the Desmosedici GP14.2. They are still eagerly awaiting the arrival of the GP15, but that bike will not be ready until the Sepang tests, and most likely, only at the second test at Sepang.
One of the things I enjoy most about running the MotoMatters.com website is the ability to communicate and interact directly with fans. Here, and as @motomatters on Twitter (and even one day on Facebook, once I get the page sorted out properly), I derive a lot of pleasure from hearing your questions and answering them to the best of my ability.
Of course, the problem with Twitter is that space to give an answer is severely limited, to just 140 characters. That doesn't leave much space to give as full an answer as the questions usually deserve. Similarly, when responding to comments on the website, I often don't have the time to spend giving the answer the full attention it deserves, as most of the questions and comments come during a race weekend.
While the Moto2 and Moto3 bikes were circulating at Valencia, along with the Althea WSBK team, Ducati and Kawasaki wrapped up their test at the Motorland Aragon circuit in preparation for the 2015 World Superbike series. The two Ducati riders were once again fastest, building on the work from Monday, with Davide Giugliano topping the timesheets ahead of teammate Chaz Davies. Jonathan Rea managed to just pip his Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes, an impressive enough performance on his first ride out on the ZX-10R, though reports from the track suggest Rea may have set his best time on qualifying tires.
All of the riders have a lot of work to do, with new technical regulations that restrict the tuning of the engines and limit electronics to a factory-supplied kit. Ducati has the least amount of work to do, the factory already having prepared for 2015 during the 2014 season, and having not to change much as a result. Kawasaki had more work on their hands, much of it falling on the shoulders of Tom Sykes, as Jonathan Rea's main objective at Aragon was simply learning his way around the bike. Also present at the track were a number of journalists and test riders, who got to ride both Tom Sykes' WSBK ZX-10R and the EVO spec Kawasaki ZX-10R with which David Salom took the 2014 EVO crown. Among those doing media laps were former Moto2 race winner Jordi Torres.
The FIM have finally released the provisional calendar for the World Superbike series for next year. The 2015 season will see WSBK travel to 14 rounds, returning to all of the venues which hosted races in 2014, and two more overseas rounds added, in Russia and Thailand.
The chances of this being the definitive calendar appear to be slim. Three rounds are marked as still subject to contract: Portimao, Moscow and Qatar. Both Portimao and Qatar look likely to go ahead, but whether WSBK will actually return to Moscow remains to be seen. The 2014 round was canceled due to the political instability in the Russian Federation and the overflow of conflict in Ukraine, which affected various partners of the series. The political situation has only deteriorated since then, with the EU and US imposing sanctions on Russia, making the race there almost impossible. The teams and riders will be hoping for the round to be canceled: the race was a logistical nightmare to get equipment to and from, and for both the fans and riders to attend and find accommodation for.
Though testing for the MotoGP class has finished, motorcycle racers in other series still have plenty of work ahead of them. Both the World Superbike series and the Grand Prix support classes have been hard at work, ahead of a busy schedule of testing. The Ducati and Kawasaki World Superbike teams have been testing at the Motorland Aragon circuit, while Moto2 and Moto3 are back at Valencia.
At Aragon, Jonathan Rea made his long-awaited debut on the Kawasaki ZX-10R, alongside 2013 World Champion and fierce rival Tom Sykes. With the World Superbike teams adapting to the new regulations, the two Kawasakis were a little slower than the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies. The day started off soaking, with journalists and test riders doing media laps on the 2014 bikes of Tom Sykes and David Salom. Once the track dried out in the afternoon, Kawasaki also joined the action. At the end of the day, both Ducati riders clocked up unofficial times of 1'51.3, while Sykes posted a 1'52.2 and Rea a 1'52.7. As an interesting note, they are running the track in its MotoGP configuration, using the long, sweeping double left hander as the final corner, rather than the longer version used by WSBK when the series races there, featuring the hairpin and then right and left combination leading back on to the front straight. Giugliano's best time is three seconds slower than the best time set by Andrea Dovizioso on the first day of practice for the MotoGP race at the circuit.
Motorcycle racing is expanding further into Asia. The World Superbike series has agreed a three-year deal with the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to stage a round of WSBK at the track.
The track at Buriram was completed earlier this year, and had already staged several rounds of car racing, as well as a round of the FIM Asia Road Racing championship. After an inspection by Dorna and the FIM, the track was homologated earlier this year, and will now see a visit from World Superbikes. The WSBK round is seen by Dorna as a test for MotoGP, with a chance of the premier class visiting the circuit from 2016 onwards.
Though the facilities at Buriram appear to be first rate, the only concern about the track is it is in the middle of nowhere. Bangkok is four hours away, and the town of Buriram is home to 15,000. Accommodation, just for the teams, could be difficult, let alone the crowds they hope to have.
Thailand is one of three extra rounds expected to be added to the World Superbike schedule for 2015. The 12 races held this year will also feature on the calendar, with Thailand added and Dorna hoping to add two more races. The World Superbike schedule is expected to be published next Tuesday, 18th November.
Below is the official press release issued by Dorna:
It was no secret that Johnny Rea, Honda Europe and the Ten Kate Honda team had a fantastic working relationship. To underline just how strong the bonds were between Honda and Rea, they issued a press release bidding Rea a fond farewell, and wishing him the best in his future endeavors. The press release appears below:
Honda bids farewell to a racing friend
Last Sunday's thrilling end to the 2014 World Superbike championship season in Qatar also marked the conclusion of one of the longest and most successful racing partnerships that the series has ever seen.
After six seasons with the official Honda World Superbike team, run from the Ten Kate Racing workshops in the Netherlands – plus a year in the World Supersport championship with the same outfit – Jonathan Rea will begin the 2015 season with a new challenge.
Year one of the partnership between Rea and the Ten Kate Honda team yielded six World Supersport podiums and three race wins. When he stepped up to World Superbikes and the Honda Fireblade in 2009, Rea began a remarkable record that has seen him take at least one race victory every year.
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.
The last World Superbike race of a season is done, and with it, the season is over. The cloud of team orders hung over the overnight races, and tensions rose over orders refused.
The end of the 2014 World Superbike championship, wrapped up last night at Qatar, has triggered a series of official rider announcements for 2015. Two of the most anticipated announcements were made on Monday, with official confirmation that Jonathan Rea would be leaving Pata Honda to join the Kawasaki Racing Team in World Superbikes, while the seat he is vacating at the Ten Kate Pata Honda team will be filled by newly-crowned 2014 World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli. Rea will line up alongside Tom Sykes, while Guintoli will be teammate to World Supersport champion Michael van der Mark.
The moves of both men were an open secret in the paddock, and had originally been expected to be announced after the previous round at Magny-Cours. That, however, was dependent on Sykes wrapping up the title at the French round, but an outstanding weekend by Guintoli and a poor weekend by Sykes took the title chase down to the final WSBK round at Qatar this Sunday. With the championship over, the news could finally be announced.
The partnership of Rea and Sykes is eagerly awaited, both inside and outside the paddock. Rea is very highly rated by industry insiders, who have praised what the Ulsterman has been able to achieve on what is widely regarded as an outdated and underperforming Honda CBR1000RR. Rea has finished ahead of his teammate and as first Honda rider, ever since moving to WSBK in 2009. Rea is expected to be a very strong teammate for Sykes, something which the rumored animosity between Sykes and Rea will only exacerbate. The pairing of Rea with Sykes will certainly make Kawasaki the strong favorites for the 2015 WSBK title.
Press releases from the series organizers and the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the final round of the 2014 season at Qatar:
The results of last World Superbike race of the season, held under the floodlights of Qatar.
In the penultimate Superbike race, the first ever at night, Sylvain Guintoli could not win the title, but, if things went his way, Sykes could.