While the 2013 MotoGP season has been favored with fair weather, Casey Stoner's testing duties for Honda have been severely hindered by rain. The previous test was a washout, and most of the last two days at Motegi were also badly affected by rain. However, the Australian managed to cram the best part of two days' work into a single day on Thursday, riding both the 2014 RC213V and Honda's production racer, to be called the RCV1000R.
Stoner was impressed with the progress made on the factory machine, speaking of 'big modifications and improvement' in the press release issued by Honda. It was also the first opportunity Stoner had to ride Honda's RCV1000R, a moment which had been highly anticipated by followers of the sport. Stoner's impression of the bike was very positive, saying in the press release that it felt like a factory Honda with less power and a slightly different feel in engine braking. Though no lap times were revealed for Stoner - all Honda personnel sworn to secrecy, and no other factories present at Motegi to leak times - the press release said that he circulated at 'high average speeds worthy of the RC213V.' When put next to reports that test rider Takumi Takahashi lapped half a second slower on the RCV1000R than on the RC213V, that would put Stoner's time within a few tenths of his time on the factory bike. That would make Honda's production racer a very competitive package.
That could be one reason why Aspar is considering a switch from Aprilia to Honda's production racer. According to reports on GPOne.com, the Aspar squad have spoken to HRC principal Livio Suppo about purchasing two of Honda's production racers. Aspar's main concern are the rumors that Ducati is trying to tempt Aprilia technical chief Gigi dall'Igna to the Bologna factory. Dall'Igna has been the driving force behind development of both Aprilia's RSV4 WSBK machine, and the ART bike raced in MotoGP. So far, Dall'Igna has shown no interest in a move to Ducati, however. One source close to Aprilia suggest that Dall'Igna could have started the rumors himself, to strengthen his hand inside Aprilia.
But perhaps Aspar's interest in the Honda is born of a more practical and pressing need. With the loss of Power Electronics as a sponsor, Aspar is in a more precarious financial position than they have been for a while. That makes them more dependent on Aprilia as a supplier, to the extent that Aprilia look to be underwriting both riders in the Aspar squad. Honda, on the other hand, have three production RCV1000Rs which are in the process of being built, but which have not yet been sold. A persistent rumor in the paddock insists that Honda could be tempted to part with them at a knockdown price, and selling them to a team with a proven track record would be an attractive choice.
That, however, would leave Aspar without riders. If both Nicky Hayden and - most probably - Eugene Laverty are being paid by Aprilia, then Aspar would have no one to put on the bike. Likewise, Aprilia would have two riders under contract, and no team to put them on. Despite the clear potential of the RCV1000R, the chances of Aspar actually racing them look relatively slim.
Below is the press release from HRC after Stoner's test at Motegi:
Stoner tests Honda Production Racer after bad weather again causes delay
HRC test rider Casey Stoner today tested the Honda RC213V works machine currently racing in the MotoGP class, and the "MotoGP Production Racer" as part of Honda’s development tests at the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit in Tochigi, Japan.
Casey was unable to ride yesterday on the first day of scheduled testing, due to poor weather, but testing commenced as planned today under cloudy skies. In the morning, Casey tested the RC213V MotoGP works machine, and in the afternoon he also tested the Production Racer, a machine being developed based on the RC213V. Despite it being his first ride on the test model, Stoner lapped the circuit with high average speeds worthy of the RC213V. Honda is developing the track-only Production Racer to enable teams and riders to race in the MotoGP class in 2014 with a reasonable budget.
At 15h45 local time bad weather once again brought proceedings to an end.
"Unfortunately the weather played a big role in this test which was a little frustrating not to be able to share the workload over the two days. We tried to do everything today but it was a little difficult, and we also had the threat of rain again. We started with the current RCV, trying to find a base setting and then work from there. We had two variations of chassis' to try and some big modifications and improvements in my opinion. We also tried the production bike which was more impressive than I predicted. It had a similar feeling to the RCV but with a little less power and a different feeling in engine braking. With some small modifications I believe this bike will be competitive and I look forward to the next test with it! In general it was a good, but busy day!"
The FIM have today released the provisional version of the MotoGP calendar for 2014. As expected, there are few surprises: with the addition of Argentina and Brazil, there will be nineteen races on the calendar, though Brazil is not expected to be ready to host a race next year, the event likely to be postponed until 2015. Laguna Seca is gone from the calendar, leaving just two US races on for 2014. And once again, there are four Spanish rounds on for next season, although Jerez is marked subject to contract.
The season opens with the night race in Qatar on March 23rd, though this decision is likely to face criticism from the riders. Moving the race two weeks earlier increases the risk of the evening dew which settles on the surface hitting earlier, while the bikes are still out on track. That was the case in previous years, when the race was held earlier, with some major crashes as a result. The dew settles quickly and is impossible to see under the lights, but renders the asphalt extremely slippery within a very short period.
Two more flyaways follow, to Austin and Argentina, before the series heads back to Spain for the first European race in Jerez. Jerez is still marked as subject to contract, the circuit in continuing financial straits, but it is expected that race will happen. The Argentina/Jerez pairing is the first of two Transatlantic back-to-back races, with Indianapolis and Brno also just a week a part, on the 10th and 17th of August. The three Pacific flyaways are the only three-race back-to-back, starting in Malaysia on 12th October, before heading to Motegi in Japan, and then to Phillip Island.
The schedule looks broadly similar to this year's calendar, with Mugello taking place in early June, Barcelona mid-July, and Silverstone on the last weekend of August, a move which proved very popular and successful this year. This year has seen attendance at races increase almost everywhere by between five and fifteen percent, part of which is down to better scheduling.
Everywhere, except the US, that is. Though total attendance for all three races combined is up, attendance at the two races from last year is down by around ten percent. That is one of the reason why Laguna Seca has been dropped from the calendar, as the Red Bull US GP at the Laguna Seca track has not been profitable for the past four years, according to a report in the Monterey County Herald. As a non-profit organization, SCRAMP, the organization which runs the track, has been unable to find the investment of the two other US tracks. The Circuit of the Americas receives $2 million in state tax credits, while the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has received a $100 million grant for improvements to the facility, including a new layout for the road course inside the Speedway. The sanctioning fee Laguna Seca paid to hold the MotoGP race is believed to be lowest on the calendar, and was the main reason why Moto2 and Moto3 (and previously, the 250cc and 125cc classes) never joined MotoGP at Laguna Seca.
Though the race was popular with many in the paddock, mainly for the setting, there was criticism too. Prices for accommodation in Monterey were extortionate, and the event never resonated in the local area. Compared to the lively downtown happenings at Austin, or the huge and well-organized evening events in downtown Indianapolis, the events on Cannery Row were rather small scale.
Most of all, though, there were concerns over safety. Though Turn 1 was one of the most impressive corners on the calendar, the wall was still very close, despite the hill having been moved back after 2005. Other sections, such as Turn 4 and the climb up the hill towards the Corkscrew, faced similar criticism. If something went wrong, it could have been very nasty. One team manager told me that every time MotoGP raced at Laguna Seca, he crossed his fingers on Friday morning and didn't uncross them until he left on Sunday night, with all of the riders still in one piece.
But to lose Laguna Seca is a shame, as it remains an iconic circuit which has produced some fantastic racing. The Corkscrew remains one of the most memorable corners in racing, and Turn 1 among those requiring the most bravery.
The provisional calendar appears below:
|27 April||Argentina||Termas de Rio Hondo|
|04 May||Spain(STC)||Jerez de la Frontera|
|18 May||France||Le Mans|
|15 June||Catalunya||Barcelona- Catalunya|
|28 June||Netherlands**||TT Assen|
|10 August||Indianapolis GP||Indianapolis|
|17 August||Czech Republic||Brno|
|31 August||Great Britain||Silverstone|
|14 September||San Marino & Riviera di Rimini||Marco Simoncelli Misano|
|26 October||Australia||Phillip Island|
|09 November||Valencia||Ricardo Tormo-Valencia|
Moto2 & Moto3 Silly Season Updates: Herrin & Zarco To Caterham, Honda's Moto3 Plans, Rins' Moto2 Option
More changes are afoot in the Moto2 and Moto3 field for next season. With the lack of any American talent coming through from the support classes - despite the outstanding results of Joe Roberts in both the Red Bull Rookies Cup and in AMA Supersport, and the clear talent of riders such as Cameron Beaubier and Jake Gagne - the news that Josh Herrin is to race in Moto2 in 2014 will be well received. Herrin announced the news himself on Sunday night, after wrapping up the 2013 AMA Superbike championship, defeating three-time champion Josh Hayes to do so.
Herrin had been refused to answer questions on who he had signed with, but informed paddock gossip suggested that Herrin had signed with the new Caterham Moto2 squad. Caterham, which is linked to the F1 team of the same name, and races with backing from Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes, will race a Suter chassis next season, and will see Frenchman Johann Zarco race alongside Herrin in Moto2. Herrin's switch to Moto2 had been in some doubt, as there were question marks in the paddock over both Herrin's outright ability and the sponsorship he would bring to the team. The AMA Superbike title helped remove one of those question marks, and the fact that Herrin is signed must mean that the other has also been removed.
In Moto3, there is more and more confirmation that Honda will be building a high-powered engine to defeat KTM. There had been a fierce internal debate inside HRC over whether to spend the money necessary to beat KTM at their own game, as the cost of the actual engine will be vastly more than the 12,000 euro price cap in Moto3. However, facing humiliation at the hands of KTM - who have found other ways to pass on the costs, hiding engine development costs in the price of a complete bike package - Honda has decided to act.
To defeat KTM, they will also need a winning team, and that team will be the Estrella Galicia 0,0 team of Alex Rins and Alex Marquez. The team, run by Monlau, the organization behind Marc Marquez and Maria Herrera's Spanish championship team, will make the switch to Honda for 2014, and take on the KTMs. With Rins and Marquez being two of the top favorites for the 2014 Moto3 title, along with Jack Miller, Honda should have everything in place to defeat the KTMs.
Whether Rins stays in Moto3 is still not 100% certain, however. Rins is believed to have a clause in his contract which says that if he wins the 2013 Moto3 title, he will enter Moto2 with the Monlau team. On the strength of Rins' performance at Aragon, his chances of being Moto3 champion are improving.
The Monlau team will not be the only one on a Honda. Racing Team Germany is also to remain with the Japanese manufacturer, and with Jack Miller having signed for the Red Bull KTM team, RTG has signed Efren Vazquez to race for them in 2014. Who Vazquez' teammate will be is as yet unknown, but the chances of it being a young rookie look promising.
Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam will return to the Pata Honda team for the 2014 World Superbike season. Both men have extended their contracts for one more season, giving the aging CBR1000RR what is expected to be its last season before a new bike makes an appearance.
The pairing has been plagued by injury this season, and despite increased support from HRC for 2013, the results have not been as the team had hoped. The problems had caused Johnny Rea to look elsewhere for 2014, the Ulsterman having held talks with Forward Racing about riding one of the Yamaha machines, as well as having spoken to Ducati about replacing Ben Spies in the Pramac team. In the end, the Pata Honda team was his best option for 2014.
One disappointment has been the lack of the expected V4 Honda superbike. Honda had been expected to reveal the bike at the EICMA show this November, but the Japanese manufacturer appears to have postponed the release of the new bike due to the dismal market for sports bikes. Whether the delay will turn into a cancellation is as yet unknown.
The Pata Honda press release appears below:
Pata Honda confirms 2014 SBK line-up
The Pata Honda World Superbike team has announced that it will retain the same rider line-up of Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam heading into the 2014 world championship season.
Rea is currently recuperating from a fractured left femur that he sustained in a crash at Nürburgring in Germany last month, but the 26-year-old from Northern Ireland is making a good recovery and is optimistic about the possibility of riding his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade again before then end of the year.
Rea began his world championship career with the Ten Kate-run Honda team in the 2008 World Supersport series before moving up to World Superbikes in 2009, since when he has secured 33 podiums from 116 races, including 11 race victories.
He will once again partner fellow British rider Leon Haslam who joined the team for the 2013 season, which has unfortunately been affected by a broken leg he sustained at Assen in the Netherlands in April.
Haslam, 30, has contest 155 World Superbike championship races, a third of which have been on Honda’s CBR machine. The British rider has achieved a total of three race wins and 28 podium finishes since his first SBK race in 2003, and he finished as runner-up in the series in 2010.
It's been a big decision that I've thought long and hard about because there were some other options to consider. However, at the end of the day it was an easy choice because of the faith and respect that I have for the team that I've been with for six years and the company that I have been with my entire career. I know how hard the guys work to make the Honda competitive and I know that we have the potential to fight again for more podiums and race wins and the championship next season. Those podiums and wins are what motivate all of us and that's why I know that everyone will pull out the stops over the winter again to make them happen. We will go into the testing programme in a much better position than we were in 12 months ago because we've worked so hard to get the new electronics package to work this season. I am as motivated as ever and really looking forward to riding my bike again.
I’m very happy to have another go at it, really! This season has been pretty non-existent with the injury and the big learning curve we’ve had with the new electronics. So I’m excited to get back to full fitness and to have good go with the bike and see if we can turn the potential into success. We’ve made some really good steps recently but that’s been combined with some bad luck this year. Hopefully, that’s all out of the way now and we can keep making progress in the last few races and over winter testing. The Haslam link to Honda has been strong for many years and it was fantastic to win the Suzuka 8-hour this year. Hopefully we can go back and defend that next year, and I can’t wait to go into the next World Superbike season with the same bike, the same guys and have a proper go at it.
Ronald ten Kate - team manager
Jonathan has demonstrated great faith in this team over the years and we are, of course, overjoyed to have him back for a sixth World Superbike campaign. We have got to know each other very well over the years and one thing that comes across is his consistent and tenacious desire to get the very best out of the CBR – something he does year after year. Of course, with injuries, it has not been an easy season for him or for his team-mate, so we are very happy that Leon will join us again for next season. With two fit riders and some further development on the bike, we can look forward to 2014 with renewed confidence and optimism.
Carlo Fiorani - racing operations manager, Honda Motor Europe
I do not think it is a secret that both Jonathan and Leon had some other options to consider for 2014, so we are, of course, delighted that we will be working with them again. We believe that there is a great level of mutual respect between us and we know that we have two fully-motivated riders who have the potential to fight for top honours. It’s good that they, too, know that the Honda they ride has equal potential and that they will have a team around them to help get the results that we all want to see. For many reasons, 2013 has been a difficult year for everyone, so we all hope that, with Dorna taking the series to new levels, we can have a 2014 season that is safe and successful, both for the riders and for the whole team.Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam will return to the Pata Honda team for the 2014 World Superbike season. Both men have extended their contracts for one more season, giving the aging CBR1000RR what is expected to be its last season before a new bike makes an appearance.The pairing has been plagued by injury this season, and despite increased support from HRC for 2013, the results have not been as the team had hoped. The problems had caused Johnny Rea to look elsewhere for 2014, the Ulsterman having held talks with Forward Racing about riding one of the Yamaha machines, as well as having spoken to Ducati about replacing Ben Spies in the Pramac team. In the end, the Pata Honda team was his best option for 2014.One disappointment has been the lack of the expected V4 Honda superbike. Honda had been expected to reveal the bike at the EICMA show this November, but the Japanese manufacturer appears to have postponed the release of the new bike due to the dismal market for sports bikes. Whether the delay will turn into a cancellation is as yet unknown.The Pata Honda press release appears below:Pata Honda confirms 2014 SBK line-upThe Pata Honda World Superbike team has announced that it will retain the same rider line-up of Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam heading into the 2014 world championship season.
After the serious incident at Silverstone, in which Dani Rivas crashed into Steven Odendaal during the Sunday morning warm up, as Odendaal and other riders stood waiting to make practice starts, the Grand Prix Commission has taken steps to regulate practice starts in all three Grand Prix classes. From now on, practice starts will only be allowed from designated locations at the circuit, and practice starts elsewhere will be banned.
Practice starts will be allowed from pit lane exit during practice, and at one or two designated zones around each track, as decided before each race. Marshals will indicate the start of the practice start zones, and all riders not electing to practice a start in that zone will be warned by yellow flags and will have to stay on the opposite side of the track from the start zone.
The new rules are effective immediately. The FIM press release containing the full set of rules appears below:
FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM Executive Director, Sport), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on September 26 2013 at Motorland Aragon, made the following decision:
All Classes - Effective immediately
Responding to a request from Race Direction and the Safety Commission, The Grand Prix Commission has decided to make immediate amendments to the regulations controlling the regulation of practice starts.
Riders will still be permitted to make practice starts when it is safe to do so, at the pit lane exit before joining the track.
Riders will also still be permitted to make practice starts after passing the chequered flag at the end of practice sessions and warm-ups. However, under the revised regulation the location of these practice starts will be controlled.
For each circuit there will be one or two (depending on circuit layout) designated Practice Start Zones. These zones will be communicated to the teams on Wednesday or Thursday before practice begins. Practice starts may be made only in the designated Practice Start Zone(s), and the following procedure will apply:
1. After the chequered flag at the end of the practice session, a track marshal will be positioned on the side of the track indicating the Practice Start Zone(s).
The Zone will be off the racing line, on the opposite side of the track to the normal racing line.
2. Yellow flags will be waved at the marshal post(s) before the Practice Start Zone, to alert riders that bikes may be stopped ready for practice starts.
3. Riders may make practice starts only when there are no stationary bikes in front of them. That is, the riders most forward in the Practice Start Zone make their starts first, followed by the riders behind them, and so on.
4. Only one practice start from each Practice Start Zone is allowed. It is not permitted to make a practice start, then stop further up the track and make another practice start from the same Zone.
5. Riders who do not wish to make a practice start may continue slowly on the racing line, on the opposite side of the track to the Practice Start Zone.After the serious incident at Silverstone, in which Dani Rivas crashed into Steven Odendaal during the Sunday morning warm up, as Odendaal and other riders stood waiting to make practice starts, the Grand Prix Commission has taken steps to regulate practice starts in all three Grand Prix classes. From now on, practice starts will only be allowed from designated locations at the circuit, and practice starts elsewhere will be banned.Practice starts will be allowed from pit lane exit during practice, and at one or two designated zones around each track, as decided before each race. Marshals will indicate the start of the practice start zones, and all riders not electing to practice a start in that zone will be warned by yellow flags and will have to stay on the opposite side of the track from the start zone.The new rules are effective immediately. The FIM press release containing the full set of rules appears below:FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Decision of the Grand Prix Commission
There is more movement afoot in the Moto3 class for next season. Today, the Red Bull KTM Ajo team announced that they have signed 2013 Red Bull Rookies Cup winner Karel Hanika for 2014. The young Czech rider will join Australian rider Jack Miller and Malaysian Zulfahmi Khairuddin on board factory-backed KTM Moto3 machines for next season.
Though Hanika's signing had been rumored since Misano, it marked a turnabout in fortunes for the young Czech prodigy. At Brno, Hanika was still without a ride for next season, the only offers he had requiring he bring sponsorship. By Misano, agreement with Ajo was as good as reached, the deal only just being announced.
That a rider like Hanika should have difficulty finding a deal speaks volumes of the financial problems faced by Moto3 teams. Hanika is very highly rated by all who have seen him race in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, series manager Peter Clifford describing him as 'the biggest talent the Red Bull Rookies has produced.' Hanika has shown maturity and talent in his domination of the series, yet Moto3 teams were still hesitant to sign him. With sponsors demanding instant success, young talent is being given less time to develop and learn. In the end, it took Red Bull to step up and support the young Czech rider who had come through the system.
Hanika's arrival means Arthur Sissis will have to make way at the Ajo team. After a promising start, the Australian had not made the progress which would have allowed him to keep his job. His future in Moto3 is uncertain at the current moment.
Below is the press release from the Ajo team announcing the deal:
Red Bull KTM Ajo sign Karel Hanika for 2014
2013 champion of the Red Bull Rookies Cup to ride with reigning Moto3 World Championship winning team.
Red Bull KTM Ajo have recruited young talent Karel Hanika for next season’s Moto3 World Championship campaign. The Czech rider, born in Brno on April 14th, 1996, is the winner of the 2013 edition of the Red Bull Rookies Cup and will debut in Grand Prix competition with the 2008, 2010 and 2012 lower cylinder category Teams World Champion.
Just like Danny Kent in 2011 and Arthur Sissis in 2012, 17 year-old Karel Hanika will make the move to the Moto3 World Championship with Aki Ajo’s team following success in the Red Bull Rookies Cup. The Czech rider took 3 wins and 4 podiums in the 2012 edition of the series, but this year has improved yet further to claim the title with two races in hand. Hanika has won 6 races in 2013 –half of those held so far– and finished runner-up at a further 3.
His results, riding and development were key to Red Bull KTM Ajo’s confidence in his abilities, and the team will challenge Hanika to continue his upward trajectory as part of their team for 2014.
Aki Ajo - Team Manager
"We are very happy to bring Karel [Hanika] to Red Bull KTM Ajo. He is a very talented young rider, who has had great races in the Red Bull Rookies Cup both this season and last season. Karel follows in the footsteps of Danny Kent and Arthur Sissis, moving from the Red Bull Rookies Cup to the World Championship with us. It is an honour for Red Bull KTM Ajo to have these young riders coming through, with their desire to work hard and learn after their time in that magnificent competition. I know that Karel is very motivated for next year, and that is the most important thing. After this announcement, the team will return our focus on our fight for the Moto3 title this season."
Karel Hanika - Rider
"Moving up to the Moto3 World Championship with Red Bull KTM Ajo is a dream for me. In my opinion this is the best team in the series and a perfect opportunity for me. I have to make the most of this unique chance. I don’t want to set goals for my first season in the World Championship, because it is still early, but I hope to have as much success as possible. I can’t wait for the first preseason tests and my first meeting with the team. The feeling about next season couldn’t be better."There is more movement afoot in the Moto3 class for next season. Today, the Red Bull KTM Ajo team announced that they have signed 2013 Red Bull Rookies Cup winner Karel Hanika for 2014. The young Czech rider will join Australian rider Jack Miller and Malaysian Zulfahmi Khairuddin on board factory-backed KTM Moto3 machines for next season.Though Hanika's signing had been rumored since Misano, it marked a turnabout in fortunes for the young Czech prodigy. At Brno, Hanika was still without a ride for next season, the only offers he had requiring he bring sponsorship. By Misano, agreement with Ajo was as good as reached, the deal only just being announced.That a rider like Hanika should have difficulty finding a deal speaks volumes of the financial problems faced by Moto3 teams. Hanika is very highly rated by all who have seen him race in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, series manager Peter Clifford describing him as 'the biggest talent the Red Bull Rookies has produced.' Hanika has shown maturity and talent in his domination of the series, yet Moto3 teams were still hesitant to sign him. With sponsors demanding instant success, young talent is being given less time to develop and learn. In the end, it took Red Bull to step up and support the young Czech rider who had come through the system.
Valentino Rossi is to back a Moto3 team showcasing Italian talent from next season. The Italian will work with Sky Italia, the broadcaster who will be taking over the broadcast rights for MotoGP from next season, to field a pair of riders including current FMI Italia rider Romano Fenati on KTM machines. Sky Italia will be the main sponsor, while Rossi's VR46 clothing and merchandise brand will provide support and backing for the project.
The aim of project is to help bring young Italian talent into Grand Prix racing. This was also the aim of the Italian motorcycling federation when they set up the FMI Italia team with Romano Fenati and Francesco Bagnaia, but the FTR Hondas have been no match for the superior horsepower of the KTMs this season. The Sky Italia / VR46 team have elected to race with KTM machinery, giving them a better chance of fighting on an equal footing.
The confirmation that Rossi will back the Sky Moto3 team comes after weeks of intense speculation that the nine-times World Champion was preparing to get involved in Moto3. Rossi had denied reports that he would manage a team, a denial which is strictly true. Rossi's involvement will be at a greater remove, through backing from his merchandising company. Who will be involved in running the team is yet to be announced. The second rider alongside Fenati is also still to be announced, though speculiation continues to mount that Rossi will find a slot for his half brother, Luca Marini. Marini made his Moto3 debut at the last round at Misano, but crashed out on the first lap.
Replacement Merry-Go-Round: Cudlin In For Hernandez, Scassa Replaces Abraham, Salom In For Baz, And WSBK Wildcards
As the end of the season approaches, the punishment which the riders have taken is starting to take its toll. With several riders out or moved, replacements are being sought to complete the season, or at least fill in for the next race.
In the MotoGP class, the knock on effect of Ben Spies' extended absence means that a vacancy arose at the PBM team. With Michele Pirro unable to race in the overseas triple header, dedicating himself to testing for the remainder of the year, Yonny Hernandez has been moved to the Ignite Pramac squad for the last five races of the year, as was announced after the Misano test. That meant that Hernandez' spot at PBM needed filling, preferably by a rider with some kind of Grand Prix experience. That rider has now been found, and Damian Cudlin is to take the place of Hernandez at the next round of MotoGP at Aragon. Whether Cudlin will continue at PBM after Aragon is yet to be determined. Cudlin has GP experience, having replaced Hector Barbera in 2011 at Motegi and Phillip Island. He has also raced both as a wildcard and as a replacement rider in Moto2.
Luca Scassa will also be making an appearance as a replacement rider. The Italian will be taking the place of the injured Karel Abraham at Cardion AB, initially for the Aragon race. Depending on Scassa's performance, the Italian could replace Abraham for the remainder of the season. Scassa has had a checkered career, having raced in World Supersport, World Superbike and the AMA. His best season came in 2011, when he challenged Chaz Davies for the WSS title for much of the year.
There is also a replacement in the World Superbike series. WSBK regular and current WSS rider David Salom will be taking the place of Loris Baz in the Kawasaki Racing Team for this weekend's Laguna Seca round of WSBK, racing alongside Tom Sykes. Salom is not the only replacement rider at Laguna Seca: Michel Fabrizio will continue to replace the injured Jonathan Rea at Pata Honda, and Blake Young is in for Leon Camier at the Fixi Crescent Suzuki team.
The WSBK grid will be boosted at Laguna Seca, with Roger Hayden and Danny Eslick entered to compete as wild cards. The Jordan Motorsports team entered the two men for the World Superbike round, citing a lack of TV coverage of the AMA series, which is also racing on the same weekend, as the reason for choosing WSBK over the AMA series they normally compete in, according to a report on the Roadracing World website.
Below is the press release from Cardion AB announcing Scassa to replace Abraham:
Italian WSS rider Luca Scassa to replace injured Karel Abraham
The Italian rider Luca Scassa will replace Karel Abraham in the Czech Cardion AB Motoracing team in the next round of MotoGP in Aragon. Until now Scassa competed in WSS championship for the Czech team Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpress.
Karel Abraham, manager Cardion AB Motoracing
„Luca has ridden more then fifty races in WSBK and he has enough experiences to run on the MotoGP bike and to jump to the championship. It was important for us to find a rider, who can manage so specific machine as the Motogp bike is and who knows the circuits where next five races will take place. The first race waiting for us is next weekend in Aragon, where Luca achieved this year´s best result in WSS. Our aim is to get Luca feel comfortable with the bike and try to improve the lap time step by step during the weekend. Then we will decide if we will continue together also in remaining races.“
Luca Scassa – profile of the rider
Freshly thirty years old rider started his career in 1999. He became the 2003 champion in Superstock 600 class in very well occupied Italian Championship. Next year he changed to the Superstock class. In 2007 he began a "superbike" era in American AMA Championship and he raced in the World Superbike Championship in 2009 and 2010, the first season for Kawasaki and the other for Ducati. He did his best 7th position twice, finished 27th overall, respectively 17th. Luca returned to WSS in 2011 winning first two races of the season. After a series of problems he ended the championship on the fifth place with three wins and four podium finishes. After one year in BSB Luca turned back to WSS, joining Czech team Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpress. He stays on 6th overall position with 74 points two races before the end of the seasonAs the end of the season approaches, the punishment which the riders have taken is starting to take its toll. With several riders out or moved, replacements are being sought to complete the season, or at least fill in for the next race.In the MotoGP class, the knock on effect of Ben Spies' extended absence means that a vacancy arose at the PBM team. With Michele Pirro unable to race in the overseas triple header, dedicating himself to testing for the remainder of the year, Yonny Hernandez has been moved to the Ignite Pramac squad for the last five races of the year, as was announced after the Misano test. That meant that Hernandez' spot at PBM needed filling, preferably by a rider with some kind of Grand Prix experience. That rider has now been found, and Damian Cudlin is to take the place of Hernandez at the next round of MotoGP at Aragon. Whether Cudlin will continue at PBM after Aragon is yet to be determined. Cudlin has GP experience, having replaced Hector Barbera in 2011 at Motegi and Phillip Island. He has also raced both as a wildcard and as a replacement rider in Moto2.
As the 2013 MotoGP season heads into its final five races, negotiations for 2014 are coming to a head. While the seats on factory and satellite machines were filled some time ago, the next level of competitiveness, both in terms of riders and bikes, is now up for grabs.
Two names and two teams were the focal point of the negotiations, and the log jam behind which many other riders were waiting. It was up to Aleix Espargaro to make a decision on whether to stay at Aspar, or pay off his contract and head to the NGM Forward squad, and up to Nicky Hayden to decide whether his future lay in MotoGP with Aspar or Forward, or if it was time to head over to World Superbikes, and become the first rider to win a title in both series.
In turn, the Aspar and NGM Forward teams had become the hot ticket, because of the packages they had to offer, and how competitive they are expected to be. Forward will be running Yamaha's leased engine package, consisting of an engine, frame and swingarm from the 2013 Yamaha M1 for 2014, with the rest of the bike to be built by FTR. The British engineering firm will then build an entire chassis package for 2015, though the chassis could be entered earlier if it is finished. The package will run the spec Dorna software instead of Yamaha's custom electronics, and this is likely to be the limiting factor on performance.
Aspar will continue with Aprilia, after a brief flirtation with running the leased Yamahas, and after losing their Power Electronics sponsorship for 2014 (the Spanish company has shifted their focus to soccer), they have become a de facto Aprilia factory team. Aprilia will be providing a completely revised bike, featuring an engine with pneumatic valves, possibly a seamless gearbox, and a brand new chassis. The team will be entered as a non-factory entry for 2014, using the spec software while they continue to work on reducing fuel consumption, which would allow them to prepare for a switch to factory status in 2015, running their own custom software.
Though Espargaro was aware of the increased effort and involvement from Aprilia, the lure of a Yamaha M1 has proved too tempting. According to Motocuatro.com, Aleix Espargaro and his new manager Albert Valera - who also manages Jorge Lorenzo - have negotiated the release fee for the current CRT leader down from 650,000 euros to just 400,000. Espargaro will now race for Forward in 2014 and 2015, with an option to leave after 2014. If he does decide to leave, he will have to repay most of his Aspar buyout fee, some 300,000 euros, Motocuatro claims.
While Espargaro is leaving Aspar, Nicky Hayden will be joining the team, preferring to stay in MotoGP than to switch to WSBK. At Misano, Hayden denied the deal had been done (though it would be more accurate to say that he refused to confirm the deal had been done), but sources confirm that Hayden will be at the Spanish squad. His contract, however, will be directly with Aprilia, the factory controlling rider selection in return for providing equipment. Hayden's interest in Aprilia went from rumor to fact after the American accidentally uploaded to his social media exercise app the route to his morning run a week before Misano, which had taken him around Noale, the Italian city where Aprilia is based. Hayden confirmed his interest to the media at Misano, and when members of his family were seen going into and out of the Aspar truck for meetings, the signing seemed all but confirmed. Full confirmation of the deal is expected at Aragon.
Taking the other seat at Aspar is almost certain to be Eugene Laverty. The Irishman has a contract with Aprilia, but with the Italian factory courting Marco Melandri to race in World Superbikes alongside Sylvain Guintoli, there was no room in WSBK. Laverty has long wanted to return to MotoGP on competitive machinery, and being placed inside the Aspar squad on an Aprilia is an ideal situation for him. Laverty will drop the #58 plate he races in WSBK to take his old number, #50, which he raced in both 250s and World Supersport, before being forced to drop it when he moved up to World Superbike where it was taken by Sylvain Guintoli.
With both seats taken at Aspar, there is no room there for current rider Randy de Puniet. The relationship between the Frenchman and the team has deteriorated over the last season, something which could be related to De Puniet's role as Suzuki test rider. For 2014, the Frenchman looks like taking on this role full time, preparing for a return to the premier class in 2015 with the Japanese factory.
Alongside Espargaro in Forward will most likely be Colin Edwards. The Texan has found a recent burst of speed in the second half of the season, finishing as best CRT rider at Misano. Edwards has long made his desire clear to stay with Forward, especially once the details of the M1 lease package emerged. Edwards has been an invaluable resource in helping to develop the FTR chassis currently housing the Kawasaki engine, and believes that his experience with the previous M1 bikes can be valuable. Though nothing is settled, it looks like Edwards will get his wish and stay at Forward.
Elsewhere, seats are still open, but some clear favorites are starting to appear. PBM will continue with a two-rider team, the current plan being to continue to develop the chassis being raced by Michael Laverty. PBM had been in talks to run Honda's production racer, but had rejected the idea on the grounds of cost. Though the rider line up is not yet fixed, Michael Laverty is close to extending his deal with the team for another year, and he looks set to be joined by Alex Lowes, who has been impressive in BSB.
PBM's current rider Yonny Hernandez, who is to replace Ben Spies at Pramac for the rest of 2013, will likely get to stay in MotoGP, but he will be forced to switch teams. Having a South American is important with MotoGP making a return to the continent next year, and place could be found at the Avintia Blusens team, probably alongside Hector Barbera, who brings personal sponsorship.
As for the IODA team of Giampiero Sacchi, they will almost certainly continue with their Suter BMW package, and with Danilo Petrucci on one of their bikes. IODA, too, are losing their sponsors, security door manufacturer CAME leaving MotoGP altogether, despite being chased by Yamaha and LCR Honda. The IODA team is working on a replacement, and a proposal which looks to be highly innovative and a break from the traditional approach. The second seat at IODA will depend on their success at leveraging that proposal.
The influx of new riders changes the balance of nationalities in the paddock, with Spanish and English speakers predominating. Seven Spaniards will line up next season, and while the three best riders in the world are Spanish, series organizer Dorna is less happy having so many riders from the same country. The Espargaro brothers are highly regarded, but Dorna would very much like to get rid of both Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera. Though both are fast, Dorna would dearly like to replace them with riders from other countries who are just as fast. But there is also a distinctly British flavor to MotoGP next year - or more accurately, the flavor of the British Isles. With the arrival of Scott Redding and Alex Lowes, the number of UK passport holders will rise to four for 2014. Add in the Laverty brothers (Irish passport holders, hailing from a town in Northern Ireland), and that makes a grand total of six men from the same region. The common cry of British fans that the series is dominated by Spaniards will ring rather hollow in 2014. At least it will to the Germans, French and even Italians.
The 2014 MotoGP rider line up, as it looks so far:
|Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha M1||2014|
|Valentino Rossi||Yamaha M1||2014|
|Tech 3 Yamaha|
|Bradley Smith||Yamaha M1||2014|
|Pol Espargaro||Yamaha M1||2015|
|Marc Marquez||Honda RC213V||2014|
|Dani Pedrosa||Honda RC213V||2014|
|Stefan Bradl||Honda RC213V||2014|
|Alvaro Bautista||Honda RC213V||2014|
|Scott Redding||Honda PR||2015|
|Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati GP14||2014|
|Cal Crutchlow||Ducati GP14||2015|
|Andrea Iannone||Ducati GP14||2014|
|Ben Spies||Ducati GP14||2014|
|Aleix Espargaro||FTR Yamaha M1||2015|
|Colin Edwards?||FTR Yamaha M1|
|Nicky Hayden||Aprilia ART|
|Eugene Laverty?||Aprilia ART|
|Karel Abraham||Honda PR||2014|
|Michael Laverty?||PBM Aprilia|
|Alex Lowes?||PBM Aprilia|
|Danilo Petrucci?||Suter BMW|
|Hector Barbera||FTR Kawasaki|
|Yonny Hernandez?||FTR Kawasaki|
All entries with question marks (?) are still uncertain.As the 2013 MotoGP season heads into its final five races, negotiations for 2014 are coming to a head. While the seats on factory and satellite machines were filled some time ago, the next level of competitiveness, both in terms of riders and bikes, is now up for grabs.Two names and two teams were the focal point of the negotiations, and the log jam behind which many other riders were waiting. It was up to Aleix Espargaro to make a decision on whether to stay at Aspar, or pay off his contract and head to the NGM Forward squad, and up to Nicky Hayden to decide whether his future lay in MotoGP with Aspar or Forward, or if it was time to head over to World Superbikes, and become the first rider to win a title in both series. In turn, the Aspar and NGM Forward teams had become the hot ticket, because of the packages they had to offer, and how competitive they are expected to be. Forward will be running Yamaha's leased engine package, consisting of an engine, frame and swingarm from the 2013 Yamaha M1 for 2014, with the rest of the bike to be built by FTR. The British engineering firm will then build an entire chassis package for 2015, though the chassis could be entered earlier if it is finished. The package will run the spec Dorna software instead of Yamaha's custom electronics, and this is likely to be the limiting factor on performance.
If you'd like to have desktop-sized versions of the fantastic photos featured on the site, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. If you'd like to see more of Andrew Gosling's work, you can check his Facebook page.Shine on, you crazy diamond Stefan Bradl, color explosion Dani Pedrosa demonstrates what the Honda does best: get the bike stopped for the corner