Features

Looking Back At 2013 - Rating The Riders: 6th, Alvaro Bautista, 7/10

In part six of our series looking back at 2013, we reach Alvaro Bautista. Below is our view on Bautista's season in MotoGP. You can catch up with the rest of this series here: part 1, Marc Marquez; part 2, Jorge Lorenzo; part 3, Dani Pedrosa; part 4, Valentino Rossi; and part 5, Cal Crutchlow.

Alvaro Bautista Go&Fun Gresini Honda
Championship position: 6th
Score: 7/10

Alvaro Bautista is arguably MotoGP's most underappreciated rider. A former 250cc champion, the Spaniard has been on a downward trajectory since moving to MotoGP, through no real fault of his own. First, he signed with Suzuki, making him a factory rider with MotoGP's weakest factory. After Suzuki left, Bautista moved to Gresini, where he rides for a pittance, and is forced to earn his keep as a test rider for Showa and Nissin. Left to fight against the industry standard Ohlins and Brembo on his own, Bautista does not get the recognition he deserves even when he is punching above his weight.

Looking Back At 2013 - Rating The Riders: 5th, Cal Crutchlow, 8/10

The fifth part of our series looking back at 2013 sees us turn to Cal Crutchlow. Here's a perspective on his 2013 season. You can catch up with this series here: part 1, Marc Marquez; part 2, Jorge Lorenzo; part 3, Dani Pedrosa; and part 4, Valentino Rossi.

Cal Crutchlow Monster Tech 3 Yamaha
Championship position: 5th
Score: 8/10

In 2011, Monster Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal cursed the day he signed Cal Crutchlow to a two-year contract. The 2010 World Supersport champion was struggling to get to grips with MotoGP, finding the tires harder to deal with and the level of competition higher than he expected. In 2012, Poncharal's took back most of what he said about the Englishman, and in 2013, Crutchlow rewarded Poncharal's patience in spades.

This was the year of the great British motorcycle racing revival. Cal Crutchlow looked like being the first Brit to win a premier class race since Barry Sheene in 1981, and Scott Redding looked like being the first British Grand Prix champion since Sheene in 1977. Neither man would succeed in their objective, but they generated a surge of enthusiasm for the sport back in their home country.

Looking Back At 2013 - Rating The Riders: 4th, Valentino Rossi, 8/10

In the fourth part of our series looking back at 2013, we take a look at Valentino Rossi's season. To catch up with previous instalments, you can read part 1 on Marc Marquez, part 2 on Jorge Lorenzo, and part 3 on Dani Pedrosa.

Valentino Rossi Yamaha Factory Racing
Championship position: 4th
Score: 8/10

Valentino Rossi left Ducati at the end of 2012 with a palpable sense of relief. At last he would be back on a bike with a front end he could trust, and could get back to being competitive. The goal was to test himself, to see if he could still run at the front with the Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, he repeatedly told reporters in the preseason.

Testing looked promising. Rossi was a little way behind the Hondas, but so was his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, and that was the man he had to measure himself against. At the first race, Rossi was straight onto the podium, dishing out a lesson in racecraft to Marc Marquez along the way. It looked like he was finally back in business.

Looking Back At 2013 - Rating The Riders: 3rd, Dani Pedrosa, 9/10

In part three of our series looking back at 2013, we review the performance of Dani Pedrosa last season. If you missed the first two instalments, you can read part 1, Marc Marquez, and part 2, Jorge Lorenzo.

Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda
Championship position: 3rd
Score: 9/10

At the end of the 2013 season, some sections of the media took great delight in writing off Dani Pedrosa, after he failed yet again to secure a MotoGP title at his eighth time of trying. Surely Pedrosa's days at the Repsol Honda team were numbered, as he consistently fails to deliver on the promise he showed in the 125 and 250 classes?

It is easy to dismiss Pedrosa as MotoGP's 'nearly man', and consign him to the dustbin of history, but to do so is to ignore Pedrosa's actual results. Dani Pedrosa won three races in 2013, was on the podium a further ten times, moved ahead of Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey and Kenny Roberts in the all-time MotoGP rankings, and now has the same number of second- and third-place finishes as Valentino Rossi. After Assen, Pedrosa was leading the championship by 9 points.

Looking Back At 2013 - Rating The Riders: 2nd, Jorge Lorenzo, 9/10

Continuing our look back at 2013, here is the second part of our rating of rider performances last season, covering championship runner up Jorge Lorenzo. If you missed part 1, on Marc Marquez, you can catch up here.

Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Factory Racing
Championship position: 2nd
Score: 9/10

After as close to a perfect year as you can get in 2012, Jorge Lorenzo faced a major challenge in 2013. Defending his 2010 title, Lorenzo found himself pushing right at the limit to try to match the pace of Casey Stoner. He had hoped defending his 2012 title would be a little easier, but that would prove not to be the case.

Ironically, Lorenzo ran up against the same problems in 2013 that he had faced in 2011: a game-changing newcomer at Honda, on a bike developed specifically to beat the Yamaha. In 2011, the game-changer had been Casey Stoner; in 2013, it was Marc Marquez.

Lorenzo started the year well at Qatar, but raced at Austin knowing he could not beat the Hondas. At Jerez, he got a rude awakening, when Marc Marquez barged him aside in the final corner. His worst finish since his rookie year at Le Mans was followed by two wins, Lorenzo regaining his confidence and feeling he had the championship back under control.

Looking Back At 2013 - Rating The Riders: 1st, Marc Marquez, 9/10

As 2014 gets underway, we start our build up towards the upcoming MotoGP season. This starts all this week with a look back at the performance of the riders in 2013, rating the top ten in the championship, as well as exceptional performers last year. Later this month, we will start to look forward, highlighting what we can expect of the season to come, both in terms of riders and the new regulations for 2014. The new season starts here.

Marc Marquez Repsol Honda
Championship position:  1st
MotoMatters Rating 9/10

How would Marc Marquez fare in MotoGP? It was the question on everybody's lips at the start of 2013, as the young Spaniard left the class he had dominated to play with the big boys. It would be Marquez' moment of truth: throughout his career in the junior classes, he had always been in the best teams. Many outside observers also claimed he had been on the best bike in Moto2. In 2013, Moto2 teams who had competed against him were free to concede that Marquez had won despite his Suter, not because of it.

Their words were backed by Marquez' action. Accepted wisdom holds that a rookie year is for learning, for getting to grips with a MotoGP bike, having a few big crashes, chasing the odd podium and maybe even a win. Marquez did all that and more, but how he did it marked him out as one of a kind. His first podium came in his first race, the Spaniard benefiting from problems Dani Pedrosa suffered with the dusty Qatar surface. His first win came a race later, smashing what would be one of many records in MotoGP. Youngest race winner, youngest champion, youngest rider to set a fastest lap, youngest polesitter, youngest back-to-back winner, youngest to win four races in a row, most wins as a rookie, most poles as a rookie, highest points total for a rookie; the list goes on and on. Marquez broke records held by Freddie Spencer, Kenny Roberts, Mike Hailwood. These are very big boots to fill, yet fill them he did.

Examining The Options: Would Honda Really Quit MotoGP Over A Spec ECU?

The 2014 MotoGP season marks a key point in the evolution of Grand Prix racing. Next season, all entries in the MotoGP class must use the Magneti Marelli standard ECU and datalogger as part of their hardware package. For the first time in history, electronics have been limited in motorcycle racing's premier class.

It is a small victory for Dorna and the teams, however. Only the hardware has been regulated. All entries must use the standard ECU, but the choice of which software that ECU runs is up to the teams themselves. If a team decides to run Dorna's standard software, they get extra fuel to play with, and more engines to last a season. If a factory decides they would rather write their own software, they are also free to do so, but must make do with only 20 liters to last a race, and just five engines to last a season.

The difference between the two - entries under the Open class, using Dorna software, and as Factory option entries using custom software - is bigger than it seems. Open class entries are stuck with the engine management strategies (including launch control, traction control, wheelie control, and much more) as devised and implemented by the Magneti Marelli engineers, under instruction by Dorna. Factory option entries will have vastly more sophisticated strategies at their disposal, and manufacturers will be free to develop more as and when they see fit.

Testing Round Up: Laverty Rides The Suzuki, Honda's Moto3 Bike Surfaces, Forward Head To Jerez

It's been a busy time for motorcycle racing in the south of Spain. With the winter test ban about to commence, and now in force for both MotoGP and World Superbikes, the teams are heading south to get some development work done while they still can. For the World Superbike and MotoGP Open class teams, their destination is Jerez, while Moto2 and Moto3 are at Almeria, in Spain's southeastern corner.

At Jerez, Suzuki has just wrapped up a test, and Yakhnich Motorsport are taking the MV Agusta F4RR out for its first spin. The Jerez test was Eugene Laverty's first opportunity to ride the GSX-R1000, after the Irishman had signed for the Crescent Suzuki team, who have swapped title sponsors from Fixi to Voltcom. The move is a step down from the full factory Aprilia team for Laverty, but it is a long-term investment for the Irishman. Speaking to German language website Speedweek.com, Laverty explained that he believed that it was easier to move development on a project forward with a smaller group of people than inside a large organization. 

2013 Valencia Post-Race Test Day 3 Round Up: Ducati's Hope, Espargaro's Improvement, And Hayden's Honda

The rain that threatened didn't come, to both the relief and the despair of everyone at the MotoGP test in Valencia. After 18 races, three flyaways and two days of testing, there were plenty of folk who had been secretly doing rain dances so they could pack up and go home early. As much as we all love MotoGP - and given the number of people who have to work second jobs to be able to afford to be there, love is the only explanation - the season is long and tiring, and testing is necessary, but a real grind to both do and watch. There were a lot of jealous looks at the empty space where the Factory Yamaha trucks had stood, the team having upped sticks and left at the end of Tuesday.

There were plenty of people who were happy to ride, though, and people who had things to test. Pol Espargaro was delighted to be back on the bike, and continued his impressive debut on the Tech 3 bike. Aleix Espargaro continued work on the NGM Forward Yamaha FTR, while Hiroshi Aoyama and Nicky Hayden continued to ride the production Honda. At Ducati, a mildly despondent Andrea Dovizioso continued to turn laps, while new signing Cal Crutchlow learned about the grind that riding for Ducati can be, testing lots of things that don't appear to make much difference to the bike. Crutchlow remained positive, pointing to the fact that even though the experiments had failed to produce a blistering lap time, the fact that his feedback was the same as Dovizioso's and the other Ducati riders, it would prove useful in the search for improvement.

2013 Valencia Post-Race Test Day 2 Notes: Hayden's Honda, Edwards On The FTR, And The Brothers Espargaro

The track was a lot busier on Tuesday at Valencia, after the halfhearted beginning to MotoGP testing on Monday afternoon. A group of well-rested riders took to the track to get prepared for the 2014 onslaught, and take the first steps on the road to a new season. Some familiar faces, some new faces, but also a couple of new bikes, with the Yamaha FTR machines run by Forward Racing making their debut on the track, and Nicky Hayden getting his first taste of the Honda RCV1000R.

The times set by the brand new Open class bikes hardly set the world on fire, but that was to be expected given the fact that this was the first time either of them had seen serious use in the hands of Grand Prix riders. 'Don't forget that Casey [Stoner] did just five laps in Motegi with that bike,' Honda principal Livio Suppo told me. 'It's really just a first shakedown with the riders.' That point was illustrated by Scott Redding, who has a problem with the wiring loom of the Gresini RCV1000R, and had to wait while they fixed that problem. It was probably for the best, as Redding is still struggling with injuries to his arm and back. The problems is worse in left handers, which Valencia has in abundance. By the end of the long left of Turn 13, the pain had become almost unbearable, Redding said.

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