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Countdown To The Superprestigio: Marc Marquez Goes Training With Brad 'The Bullet' Baker

Normally, motorcycle racing fans face a long and empty wait between the last tests in November and the first tests in late January and early February. Fortunately, this year, it's different, thanks to the revival of the Superprestigio brand by Jaime Alguersuari, father of the Formula One driver of the same name, and founder of Spanish magazine Solomoto. Alguersuari has pulled off a massive coup by getting 2013 MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez involved, and getting him to front the race. On Saturday, 11th January, some of the best riders in the world will race on an indoor dirt track oval at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona's Olympic Park.

The Superprestigio was always a chance of the best American riders to test themselves against the top Spanish riders, and Alguersuari has arranged for this to happen again. With Marquez already involved, AMA flat track champion Brad 'The Bullet' Baker responded to a challenge from American writer Mark Gardiner on Twitter, and has traveled to Barcelona to race at the event. Baker will be racing in the Open class against the cream of the European dirt track scene, while Marquez will take on top names from the Grand Prix and World Superbike paddocks in the Superprestigio class. Currently signed up are Alvaro Bautista, Pol and Aleix Espargaro, Christian Iddon, Maverick Vinales, Marcel Schrotter, Jonas Folger, Julian Simon, Alex Rins, Tito Rabat, Kenny Noyes, and many more. The top riders from both classes will meet in a grand final at the end of the evening.

With Baker already in Spain, Marquez invited the American champion for a training session at Rufea, a facility some 170km from Barcelona. There, Spanish magazine Solomoto captured the pair of them training, getting ready for the event on Saturday night. The event itself is to be televised by Spanish TV, which will be streaming it live on their website. The action starts at 6pm, and ends with the grand final at 8:44. If you're in Barcelona, it should be a fantastic way to spend the night.

Below is the video of Brad Baker and Marc Marquez training, made by Solomoto:

Normally, motorcycle racing fans face a long and empty wait between the last tests in November and the first tests in late January and early February. Fortunately, this year, it's different, thanks to the revival of the Superprestigio brand by Jaime Alguersuari, father of the Formula One driver of the same name, and founder of Spanish magazine Solomoto. Alguersuari has pulled off a massive coup by getting 2013 MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez involved, and getting him to front the race. On Saturday, 11th January, some of the best riders in the world will race on an indoor dirt track oval at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona's Olympic Park.

Ducati Considering Racing MotoGP As Open Entries For 2014?

After a year of evolution in MotoGP which brought them few rewards, Ducati looks set for a radical shake up for next season. Respected Italian website GPOne.com is reporting that Ducati is considering racing in MotoGP as an Open entry, instead of under the Factory option. In practice, Ducati would be free of the engine freeze in place for Factory Option teams in 2014, have 24 liters of fuel instead of 20, and twelve engines per season instead of just five. In addition, they have more freedom to test with factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow. In exchange, they will have to forego the freedom to develop their own software, and will run the spec Dorna-supplied software instead.

GPOne's source is impeccable, quoting Ducati factory rider Andrea Dovizioso. The two bikes - the GP13 in factory configuration, and in the Open configuration with more fuel and the spec software - have already been tested back-to-back, at the test in Jerez in November. However, those bikes were ridden by test riders, and not by Ducati factory men Dovizioso and Crutchlow. 'The real test will come when we test the bike,' Dovizioso told GPOne.com. That test is set to happen at Sepang, at the first test of the 2014 season from 4th to 6th February. One of the things which was said to be improved was the engine response when running with more fuel. An aggressive throttle response is something which Ducati riders have all complained of in the past, and having more fuel available could alleviate.

Switching to an Open entry offers Ducati a lot of advantages, which far outweigh the disadvantage of losing the use of their own software. Right now, what Ducati needs is testing and development, and by removing the software from the equation, Ducati are free to concentrate on engine and chassis. The fact that Open entries are not subject to the engine freeze in place on all engine internals for 2014 for Factory Option bikes means that Ducati are free to change engine configurations and internals when they want. With twelve engines for the season, they can test a lot more variables, playing with crankshaft masses, valve timing and sizes, the configuration of the V, tilting it backwards and forwards, and rejigging the layout of gearbox shafts, should they so wish. In effect, Ducati can circumvent the engine freeze imposed on factory entries and try to catch up with Yamaha and Honda. To catch the two Japanese factories, Ducati have a lot of development work to do, and the engine freeze is a massive impediment to doing just that.

Racing as an Open entry has two more major benefits. The first is testing, which Open entries have much more freedom in. Dovizioso and Crutchlow would be free to test at any circuit they like, rather than having to rely on test riders at all but the official test days, as Factory option entries must. Though there is a minor difference in tire allocations for testing, the net result is the same, with 120 testing tires each for Dovizioso and Crutchlow.

The race tire allocation is the other benefit of being an Open entry. So far, it looks like Bridgestone will continue to supply the softer option rear tire for the Open entries, which is not open to Factory option entries. The softer tire offers more rear grip and more performance, and allowed Aleix Espargaro to be extremely competitive last year on the underpowered Aprilia ART bike. No decision has yet been made on the softer tire for the Open class, as Bridgestone has concerns over the durability of the tire when used by the new Open class bikes, which are much more powerful than the old CRT machines. A final decision is set to be made after the Sepang tests, once more data has been collected.

If Ducati do decide to enter as Open entries, this looks like a stroke of genius by new Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna. There are many benefits to be had from racing in the Open class, especially in the field of engine development, which is what Ducati needs most right now. Given that the bike is a long way from being competitive right now, they have very little to lose by giving up the right to use and develop their own software. With Dorna and IRTA pushing for all entries to use the spec software from 2017 onwards, this also gives Ducati a head start on the possible new rules. This is a sign that Ducati are very serious indeed about trying to return to the front.

After a year of evolution in MotoGP which brought them few rewards, Ducati looks set for a radical shake up for next season. Respected Italian website GPOne.com is reporting that Ducati is considering racing in MotoGP as an Open entry, instead of under the Factory option. In practice, Ducati would be free of the engine freeze in place for Factory Option teams in 2014, have 24 liters of fuel instead of 20, and twelve engines per season instead of just five. In addition, they have more freedom to test with factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow. In exchange, they will have to forego the freedom to develop their own software, and will run the spec Dorna-supplied software instead.GPOne's source is impeccable, quoting Ducati factory rider Andrea Dovizioso. The two bikes - the GP13 in factory configuration, and in the Open configuration with more fuel and the spec software - have already been tested back-to-back, at the test in Jerez in November. However, those bikes were ridden by test riders, and not by Ducati factory men Dovizioso and Crutchlow. 'The real test will come when we test the bike,' Dovizioso told GPOne.com. That test is set to happen at Sepang, at the first test of the 2014 season from 4th to 6th February. One of the things which was said to be improved was the engine response when running with more fuel. An aggressive throttle response is something which Ducati riders have all complained of in the past, and having more fuel available could alleviate.

Scott Deroue Joins Ana Carrasco At RW Racing In Moto3 For 2014

The penultimate piece of the 2014 Moto3 puzzle has fallen into place today, with the announcement that Scott Deroue will be joining Ana Carrasco at RW Racing GP. The Dutch youngster has signed a two-year contract to race for the Dutch team, and will contest the 2014 season on a Kalex KTM Moto3 machine.

Deroue has spent the last three season racing in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, where he has posted some impressive results, taking a total of four victories. He has also raced in both the Dutch ONK and German IDM Moto3 championships, winning in both those series, as well as competing in selected rounds of the Spanish CEV championship. That Deroue should step up to Moto3 with the RW Racing GP team comes as no surprise, as the young Dutchman has been riding for the RW Racing junior team in the Dutch and German championships. RW Racing had been expected to announce the move much earlier, but Deroue had suffered a slump in form last season, the team attributing his problems to puberty. Deroue has since started to display a little more maturity, and this could be the catalyst for RW Racing's decision to promote Deroue to the Grand Prix team.

Deroue will be the second Dutchman racing in Moto3, with Bryan Schouten already having signed for the CIP team. Deroue's signing leaves no place for Jasper Iwema, who struggled throughout the 2013 season after suffering a major concussion in a massive crash at Austin. Iwema returned to action too early, suffering concentration problems, tiredness and headaches, but soldiered on. That decision may have blighted his results; if he had elected to skip a couple of races, he could have returned in better shape, and his results might have benefited. As it was, Iwema was a victim of the pressure all riders are under to return to racing as quickly as possible. Where Iwema will end up in 2014 is unknown.

The signing of Deroue leaves just a single seat open, the second seat at Gresini. For a full and up-to-date list of all the riders and teams, see our 2014 Moto3 rider line up page.

Below is the press release issued by the RW Racing GP team on Iwema's signing:


Scott Deroue to race in world championship with RW Racing GP

Scott Deroue is the second rider for RW Racing GP in the 2014 Moto3 world championship. The team has signed the 18 year old Dutchman for two years. Deroue makes his way to Moto3 after three years in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, in which he finished as runner up in 2012 and gained four victories. A few weeks ago RW Racing GP already contracted 16 year old Spanish rider Ana Carrasco.

Giving Dutch talent the chance to race at the highest level has always been one of the main purposes of RW Racing GP since its foundation in 2011. Therefore the team already began working with Scott Deroue last year, as RW Racing GP Junior Team in the Dutch, German and Spanish open championships.

RW Racing GP team manager Jarno Janssen: “Scott has won races in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, so we know what he is capable of. This definitely is a big chance for Scott and we truly hope he will grab it with both hands. Scott has just turned 18 and 2014 will be a learning year for him. We have not set any specific goals, as in finishing at a certain position or number of championship points. The only pressure will be to show an upward trend.”

Scott Deroue: “I can’t imagine a better way to start the new year as when RW Racing GP called me to tell we will be in the world championships together. To be honest I had not counted on it anymore and we were already focussing on racing in the CEV Spanish championship. This opportunity opens a new chapter in my racing career and my personal life. I realise it will be tough but I’m ready to work hard to achieve the best possible results. I have faith in the team and our new challenge, as we have worked together already and know each other well. I’d like to thank RW Racing GP for believing in me and my sponsors and family who have supported me over the years and whose support I will need now more than ever to make this dream come true.”

RW Racing GP team owner Roelof Waninge: “As a Dutch team we feel we have an obligation and responsibility to support Dutch talents and give them a chance to develop and race at a high level. Scott is one of those special talents we believe in. We think he is ready to step up. He has built up a huge amount of international racing experience already at this age. Although there still is a challenge to secure the budget – for Scott as well – we prefer a Dutch talent over a second foreign rider.

Signing Scott means RW Racing GP and Jasper Iwema part ways after only one season. We are sorry to see Jasper leave. Unfortunately we could not find enough support to continue. Both Jasper and his management as RW Racing GP have tried hard, because we all believe there was more in it than last season showed. We consider Jasper part of the family. We hope he can find his way in a competition that suits him, because he is true racer and a fighter. We wish him all the best.”

Scott Deroue

Born: 23 december 1995
Lives: Nijkerkerveen (Netherlands)

2013 7th in Red Bull Rookies Cup, with a victory in Silverstone and podium finishes at Sachsenring and Aragon.
Two victories in the Dutch open championship (ONK) Moto3, two victories in the international German championship(IDM) Moto3 and one in the Dutch series fot the Moriwaki Cup.
2012 2nd in Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. Best results: double victory in Estoril and a win at the Sachsenring.
4th in Dutch championship (ONK) Moto3/125, with one second place and two third places.
2011 15th in first season Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. Best result: 3rd at the Sachsenring and Brno.
4th Dutch 125cc championship (ONK) Best result 2nd at Hengelo.
Best result for the international German championship (IDM) 14th at Hockenheim.
2010 13th Dutch 125 Championship (ONK), best result 5th at Assen.
Best result for the IDM 22th at Oschersleben.
2009 1st Molenaar Honda NSF100 Championship
2008 1st Dutch Pocket Bike Championship, GRC, Class Junior Open.
2007 1st Dutch Pocket Bike Championship, Blata, Class Junior B.
2006 Dutch Pocket Bike Championship, Blata, Class Junior B.
2005 1st Dutch Pocket Bike Championship, GRC.

 

The penultimate piece of the 2014 Moto3 puzzle has fallen into place today, with the announcement that Scott Deroue will be joining Ana Carrasco at RW Racing GP. The Dutch youngster has signed a two-year contract to race for the Dutch team, and will contest the 2014 season on a Kalex KTM Moto3 machine.Deroue has spent the last three season racing in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, where he has posted some impressive results, taking a total of four victories. He has also raced in both the Dutch ONK and German IDM Moto3 championships, winning in both those series, as well as competing in selected rounds of the Spanish CEV championship. That Deroue should step up to Moto3 with the RW Racing GP team comes as no surprise, as the young Dutchman has been riding for the RW Racing junior team in the Dutch and German championships. RW Racing had been expected to announce the move much earlier, but Deroue had suffered a slump in form last season, the team attributing his problems to puberty. Deroue has since started to display a little more maturity, and this could be the catalyst for RW Racing's decision to promote Deroue to the Grand Prix team.

Looking Back At 2013 With Scott Jones, Part 5: Laguna, For The Last Time


Second in flight: Andrea Dovizioso gets airborne through Turn 1


Over the crest for the last time: money problems and safety issues mean no more Laguna Seca


Nicky Hayden had a special helmet for Laguna, and as ever, it was superb


Laguna Seca would be the battle of the collarbones. Jorge Lorenzo hurt his at Assen and the Sachsenring


While Dani Pedrosa had fractured his in Germany


Cal Crutchlow hoists the front


Bautista's Beautiful Backdrop. We'll miss the scenery at Laguna


Bradley Smith was doing OK for a first timer at Laguna, but he would not last the full race


Laguna Seca saw Valentino Rossi get his third podium in a row. That had been a while


If proof were needed of Marquez' remarkable season, winning at Laguna at the first attempt there was surely it


If you'd like to have desktop-sized versions of Scott's fantastic photos, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. If you'd like a print of one of the shots you see on the site, then send Scott an email and he'll be happy to help.

Second in flight: Andrea Dovizioso gets airborne through Turn 1 Over the crest for the last time: money problems and safety issues mean no more Laguna Seca Nicky Hayden had a special helmet for Laguna, and as ever, it was superb

Voltcom Suzuki World Superbike Team Confirms Signing of Alex Lowes

Alex Lowes is to leave BSB and race for the Voltcom Suzuki team in World Superbikes in 2014. The move had been widely expected, after Lowes had tested the GSX-R1000 at Jerez in November, with unofficial reports suggesting Lowes had already signed a contract to move to WSBK. Today, the Voltcom Suzuki team confirmed officially that Lowes would be racing for them this season in WSBK, alongside Irishman Eugene Laverty.

Lowes' switch means both Lowes twins will be racing at world championship level, with reigning World Supersort champion Sam joining the Speed Up Moto2 team. Like his brother, Alex also clinched a title last year, becoming BSB champion with the Samsung Honda team.

Below is the press release issued by the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team announcing Lowes' signing:


British Champion Lowes joins Voltcom Crescent Suzuki for 2014

Voltcom Crescent Suzuki is thrilled to announce that it has secured the signature of 2013 British Superbike Champion Alex Lowes to ride the Suzuki GSX-R1000 in this year’s eni FIM Superbike World Championship.

The 23-year-old Englishman from Lincoln in England had his first taste of a full-blown Suzuki World Superbike when he took part in two pre-season tests at Jerez in Spain recently but, due to existing contractual agreements, Voltcom Crescent Suzuki has been unable to unveil its new signing officially until now. Lowes is fresh from winning the British title in the final race of the last event of the 2013 season and is now making the step up to the global stage for 2014. He is the twin brother of new World Supersport Champion, Sam, and is looking to emulate his sibling’s achievements on the world stage.

Lowes looked very much at home and fully up to speed in his two tests as he got to grips with the Yoshimura-powered Suzuki GSX-R. He worked very closely with his new crew-chief Lez Pearson, spent valuable time with new team-mate Eugene Laverty and fitted in with the Crescent team immediately.

Voltcom Crescent Suzuki is very excited about its 2014 rider line-up and eager to continue with its test programme when it returns to the track in Spain early this year. The first competitive action for Lowes and Laverty will be at the inaugural event of 2014, to be held at Phillip Island in Australia on Sunday 23rd February.

Alex Lowes:

“This is just mega for me! I am coming to the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team off a great year and making a step up to the World Championship, it’s just a fantastic opportunity and I can’t wait to get started properly. I did a couple of shake-down tests to get to know my crew and the bike and I want to thank Honda for letting me do that, as it gave me an early insight into what WSB is like. The GSX-R felt great straight away, I think I will enjoy racing this bike a lot. I am really looking forward to the new season and I will try to learn as much as I can from Eugene and then try to beat him! I know this will be a learning year for me, but I am eagerly anticipating it. I also want to say thanks to Suzuki and Paul for giving me this opportunity, now it’s time to repay their trust.”

Paul Denning – Team Manager:

“Alex was the first rider decision we made for 2014 and having experienced his commitment, ability to learn and raw speed at the two tests we’ve completed so far, it only strengthens our belief that we have a very special talent riding for the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team for next season. Alex rode a spectacular year in British Superbikes and showed incredible tenacity and maturity - considering his young age - to win the championship. He appears to fit the Suzuki GSX-R well, looks comfortable and has an inner confidence that never comes over as arrogant.

“Eugene’s experience and speed will be another help to Alex as he enters his first season of World Superbike competition and we couldn’t be happier with the overall rider line-up and the opportunities that are in-front of us.”

Alex Lowes is to leave BSB and race for the Voltcom Suzuki team in World Superbikes in 2014. The move had been widely expected, after Lowes had tested the GSX-R1000 at Jerez in November, with unofficial reports suggesting Lowes had already signed a contract to move to WSBK. Today, the Voltcom Suzuki team confirmed officially that Lowes would be racing for them this season in WSBK, alongside Irishman Eugene Laverty.Lowes' switch means both Lowes twins will be racing at world championship level, with reigning World Supersort champion Sam joining the Speed Up Moto2 team. Like his brother, Alex also clinched a title last year, becoming BSB champion with the Samsung Honda team.Below is the press release issued by the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team announcing Lowes' signing:British Champion Lowes joins Voltcom Crescent Suzuki for 2014Voltcom Crescent Suzuki is thrilled to announce that it has secured the signature of 2013 British Superbike Champion Alex Lowes to ride the Suzuki GSX-R1000 in this year’s eni FIM Superbike World Championship.

Looking Back At 2013 With Scott Jones, Part 4: A German Excursion


Needs more elbow slider. Alpinestars had to redesign their suits for Marc Marquez


Looking for a bit more. Even at the Sachsenring, it didn't really come


Cal Crutchlow came tantalizingly close to his first win at the Sachsenring. But not quite close enough


Red, white and black meets black, red and gold


Danilo Petrucci spent all 2013 doing his best Sisyphus impression, but was impressive nonetheless


Jordi who? Jordi Torres! Mr 'Kneeground' bagged his first win in Germany


Go and do what?


Omega


Nose to the grindstone


This is why. Nicky Hayden takes a tumble


If you'd like to have desktop-sized versions of Scott's fantastic photos, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. If you'd like a print of one of the shots you see on the site, then send Scott an email and he'll be happy to help.

Needs more elbow slider. Alpinestars had to redesign their suits for Marc Marquez Looking for a bit more. Even at the Sachsenring, it didn't really come Cal Crutchlow came tantalizingly close to his first win at the Sachsenring. But not quite close enough

Ratthapark Wilairot Switches To PTR Honda World Supersport Team For 2014

Ratthapark Wilairot is to return to racing, and will compete in the 2014 World Supersport championship. The Thai rider will be joining the PTR Honda team for the 2014 season, racing a CBR600RR alongside Jack Kennedy and Nacho Calero.

Wilairot's return comes after an announcement in August last year that he would be retiring from racing, stepping down from the Gresini Moto2 team with immediate effect. That announcement was met with a good deal of incredulity, especially as the decision was made by the team, at the behest of Thai Honda, who had backed Wilairot until that point. Reports from Thailand suggested that the decision had been involuntary, coming as it did mid-season, and after a string of mediocre results. But Wilairot's successor, Thitipong Warokorn, fared worse than Wilairot, raising even more doubt about the reason for the announcement.

Wilairot joins PTR hoping to get his career back on track. The Thai rider showed promise in the early years of his career, but struggled to find his form after a serious road accident before the 2011 Moto2 season. He suffered serious injury for a second time in 2011, this time being hit from behind by Marc Marquez in Australia, when the Spaniard continued on a hot lap after practice had finished, in flagrant breach of the regulations. Wilairot follows in the footsteps of Jules Cluzel, who also switched to World Supersport from Moto2.

Below is the press release issued by PTR Honda announcing Wilairot's signing:


Wilairot joins PTR for 2014 title challenge

RATTHAPARK WILAIROT will ride for the Core PTR Honda team in the 2014 World Supersport Championship.

From Thailand, the former Moto2 rider is switching classes and looking to challenge at the front in the World Supersport Championship.

The 25-year-old from Chonburi has 250cc GP experience under his belt as well. He said: "I am really happy to be racing for Core PTR Honda in the World Supersport Championship. Our aims are the same. We want to race at the front and challenge for the podium. I think together we will be able to do this and I am looking forward to getting to know the team and bike better."

Wilairot follows in the footsteps of former Moto2 racer Jules Cluzel who joined PTR in 2012 and won four races on his way to runner up in the series.

PTR Honda Team Manager Simon Buckmaster said: "We are excited to have Ratthapark join us as he has undoubted talent and raw speed as he has proved in Moto2 and 250GP. He is a quick rider that I think will benefit from having one of the best bikes in the Championship and a team fully behind him as he goes for the best results possible.

"Ratthapark will race in Core PTR Honda colours but he will benefit from being in the same garage as Jack Kennedy on the CIA PTR Honda bike. Nacho Calero on the other CIA PTR Honda bike will also benefit from the experience and speed around him. Together I think these racers will push and encourage each other to achieve the best they can and we are looking forward to testing in January already. We are looking to announce a fourth rider to complete the squad as soon as possible."

CIA PTR Honda and Core PTR Honda will test at Portimao in Portugal on 19-20th January.

Ratthapark Wilairot is to return to racing, and will compete in the 2014 World Supersport championship. The Thai rider will be joining the PTR Honda team for the 2014 season, racing a CBR600RR alongside Jack Kennedy and Nacho Calero.Wilairot's return comes after an announcement in August last year that he would be retiring from racing, stepping down from the Gresini Moto2 team with immediate effect. That announcement was met with a good deal of incredulity, especially as the decision was made by the team, at the behest of Thai Honda, who had backed Wilairot until that point. Reports from Thailand suggested that the decision had been involuntary, coming as it did mid-season, and after a string of mediocre results. But Wilairot's successor, Thitipong Warokorn, fared worse than Wilairot, raising even more doubt about the reason for the announcement.

Clash Of The Champions: Barcelona Superprestigio Flat Track Event Pits Marquez, Espargaro And Viñales Against Brad Baker

A new chapter is to be written in the long and illustrious history of motorcycle racing on Montjuic, the hill that borders the south side of Barcelona. On January 11th, a selection of Grand Prix racers, including all three world champions Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro and Maverick Viñales, are to compete in the Superprestigio dirt track event to be held at the Palau Sant Jordi on Montjuic.  The event is to be broadcast on Spanish TV

The race is to be held on single cylinder four-stroke flat trackers, raced around a 200 meter dirt oval inside the former Olympic indoor arena. Entry is by invitation only, and racing will take place in three separate classes: the Junior category, for riders under 18; the Open category, for experienced riders from around the globe racing in national championships; and the Superprestigio category, for riders currently competing in the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 classes. At the end of the evening, a run off is to be held between the four best racers in the Open category and the four best from the Superprestigio category.

The entry list for both categories is impressive. The Superprestigio category will see Marc Marquez, Pol and Aleix Espargaro, Maverick Viñales, Bradley Smith, Alvaro Bautista, Julian Simon, Jonas Folger, Moto3 teammates Alex Marquez and Alex Rins, Hector Barbera, Tito Rabat, Johann Zarco, Niklas Ajo, Jordi Torres, Lorenzo Baldassari and Ricky Cardus race against one another. Nicky Hayden was also invited, but as he has just had wrist surgery, wisely but regretfully decided to pass on the event. Among the entries for the Open category are some of the top racers from the UK's rapidly growing flat track scene, former Moto2 racer and AMA singles champion Kenny Noyes, who has a dirt track school at Motorland Aragon, the winners from the European Dirt Track Festival held at Aragon in November, and some of the top Spanish flat trackers who, unlike their road-racing brethren, are virtually unknown in their own country.

But the star of the Open class will be AMA Grand National champion Brad 'The Bullet' Baker. Baker's invitation to the event came around after a campaign on social media by writer and former racer Mark Gardiner, who eventually goaded Marc Marquez into issuing an invitiation to Baker (for more background on this, see Gardiner's Backmarker column on Motorcycle USA). As AMA Grand National Champion, Brad Baker can justifiably be regarded as the best dirt track racer in the world at the moment. 

The return of the Superprestigio revives a historic tradition. Back in the 1990s, the event was run as an end-of-season road race, which pitted some of the best American riders against some of the best from Spain. The Superprestigio saw a young John Kocinski make his first foray into Europe, which would eventually see him racing in Grand Prix and World Superbike, but it was also the place where Kenny Roberts Jr and Colin Edwards made their European debuts. In recent years, factory contracts and Dorna have put a stop to riders taking part in races on the road, but staging the event as a dirt track series neatly sidesteps any such ban. The event is the result of a collaboration between Jaime Alguersuari - father of the Spanish F1 driver of the same name, and founder of Spanish magazine Solo Moto - and Marc Marquez, who is an avid dirt track racer in the off season. Marquez had wanted to organize a race against his peers over the winter, and Alguersuari saw an opportunity to revive a once-great brand he had been involved in in the past.

The Superprestigio also stands as the current high point of the ongoing dirt track revival. After its heyday in the 70s, 80s and 90s, the popularity of the sport among road racers went into something of a decline. This was rather odd, as many of the top riders - Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner, to name two MotoGP champions - grew up racing on dirt ovals. But the past few years have seen the discipline gain popularity again, with riders such as Marquez and Valentino Rossi taking it up with much enthusiasm.

The reasons for its revival have been manifold. Perhaps its biggest attraction is that it allows riders to race at speed and slide a bike with limited risk of injury. After suffering a serious shoulder injury in 2010, Rossi set about building his own dirt track ranch near his home in Tavullia, allowing him to train without risking another similar injury. As a dirt track circuit tends to be flat, and most motocross injuries are picked up from crashes after jumps, dirt track removes a major source of injuries. Racing a bike on a loose surface also teaches riders to manage and control slides, at both the front and most especially the rear wheel. Throttle control also becomes paramount, managing the sliding of the rear, an increasing necessity in road racing, especially in Moto2 with limited electronics, and in MotoGP, following the direction opened up once again by Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez, after a period in which tires and electronics had killed it off during the 800cc era.

More and more riders are setting up their own dirt track facilities. Valentino Rossi has laid out a complex of circuits at his Moto Ranch, but Marc Marquez also has a private track where he, his brother Alex, and a host of invited riders also train.

The dirt track revival has also seen new schools growing up teaching the art. Perhaps the most famous is Colin Edwards' Texas Tornado Boot Camp, a mixture of dirt track and Texan adventure. A less expensive and more race-focused school is run by Kenny Noyes. The Noyes Camp school is run at Motorland Aragon, where it hosted the European Dirt Track festival. 

The European revival is also down to the groundwork put in by the British publication Sideburn Magazine, run by Gary Inman. That magazine has helped foster a thriving scene in the UK, with riders from all over Europe racing there. It has even fostered the Dirt Quake event, a wild and weird mixture of flat track racing on entirely unsuitable machinery, live music, and motorcycle culture.

Below is the ad for Superprestigio event currently screening on Spanish TV. A full schedule for the event is on the Superprestigio website, where you can also buy tickets. Prices start at 15 euros.

A new chapter is to be written in the long and illustrious history of motorcycle racing on Montjuic, the hill that borders the south side of Barcelona. On January 11th, a selection of Grand Prix racers, including all three world champions Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro and Maverick Viñales, are to compete in the Superprestigio dirt track event to be held at the Palau Sant Jordi on Montjuic.  The event is to be broadcast on Spanish TVThe race is to be held on single cylinder four-stroke flat trackers, raced around a 200 meter dirt oval inside the former Olympic indoor arena. Entry is by invitation only, and racing will take place in three separate classes: the Junior category, for riders under 18; the Open category, for experienced riders from around the globe racing in national championships; and the Superprestigio category, for riders currently competing in the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 classes. At the end of the evening, a run off is to be held between the four best racers in the Open category and the four best from the Superprestigio category.

Casey Stoner To Continue Role As Test Rider For Honda

Casey Stoner is to continue as test rider for Honda in 2014. The Australian double world champion will once again take the track to help develop Honda's RC213V during the 2014 season, according to British publication MCN.

Stoner took up his role as test rider in the middle of 2013, after HRC's regular test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi broke his femur at a Japanese Superbike round. The Australian worked on the 2013 RC213V, as well as a rain-shortened test on Honda's RCV1000R production racer.

According to the report on MCN, Stoner's testing schedule for 2014 has yet to be fixed. It appears that Stoner will not be present at the special tire test put on by Bridgestone at Phillip Island, which all three factory teams will attend, but he will take on further testing duties at Motegi later in the season. If Stoner does miss the Phillip Island test, it would deprive fans of a chance to directly compare his lap times with those of current Honda riders Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa.

Stoner's continuing role as a test rider will once again fuel speculation he could make a return to racing again full time at some point. Various extremely well-informed sources in Spain insist that Honda are preparing for a possible return by the Australian at an indeterminate point in the future. However, sources close to Stoner himself insist that the Australian has no intention whatsoever of coming back to race in MotoGP, and is still happy with his decision to quit. In an interview with the BBC in October, Stoner said he was more and more convinced he'd made the right decision. Each year that passes makes it more difficult for Stoner to return. The keen edge developed by actually racing a MotoGP bike is quickly lost when not racing. Furthermore, Stoner will be 29 at the start of the 2015 season, and would be facing a 22-year-old Marquez with two years of experience under his belt. That will not stop the speculation that he could return, but given his continued denials, the odds of a return seem impossibly remote.

Casey Stoner is to continue as test rider for Honda in 2014. The Australian double world champion will once again take the track to help develop Honda's RC213V during the 2014 season, according to British publication MCN.Stoner took up his role as test rider in the middle of 2013, after HRC's regular test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi broke his femur at a Japanese Superbike round. The Australian worked on the 2013 RC213V, as well as a rain-shortened test on Honda's RCV1000R production racer.According to the report on MCN, Stoner's testing schedule for 2014 has yet to be fixed. It appears that Stoner will not be present at the special tire test put on by Bridgestone at Phillip Island, which all three factory teams will attend, but he will take on further testing duties at Motegi later in the season. If Stoner does miss the Phillip Island test, it would deprive fans of a chance to directly compare his lap times with those of current Honda riders Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa.

Althea Racing Return To The Ducati Fold: Will Field Niccolo Canepa As EVO Entry In 2014 WSBK Campaign

The Althea Racing team is to switch back to Ducati from Aprilia for the 2014 World Superbike season. After their split with Ducati over development of the Panigale at the end of 2012, the Italian team are to return to the Bologna factory fold and race the Panigale in 2014. 

They will do so on a different footing to their previous relationship with Ducati, however. Next season, Althea will race the Panigale 1199R as an EVO entry in WSBK, the subclass set up to allow a more affordable entry into World Superbikes. With WSBK looking set to switch completely to EVO rules in the next few years, having a strong partner to help develop the Panigale within the restrictions set by the EVO rules - basically, a Superstock-spec engine in Superbike-spec chassis - will help Ducati prepare for the future. Given how well the Panigale has performed in Superstock form wherever it has been able to use the Ducati ECU, the bike should suit the EVO rules well.

The signing of Niccolo Canepa to race the Panigale with Althea is indicative of how close the cooperation with Ducati is likely to be. Canepa has a long history with Ducati, having functioned as a test rider for the Italian factory for a number of years, and having won the Superstock 1000 title on a Ducati in 2007, and raced Ducatis for the majority of his career. 

Below is the press release issued by Althea announcing their switch to Ducati:


Team Althea Racing with Ducati in the 2014 Superbike World Championship

Team Althea Racing is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement with Ducati to participate in the 2014 Superbike World Championship in the EVO class with a Ducati 1199 Panigale.

The Althea Racing and Ducati pairing thus makes a return, and is strengthened thanks to an agreement based on reciprocal trust and on the successes that these two important Italian companies have achieved together in recent seasons. The team, guided by Genesio Bevilacqua who has reconfirmed all of the technical staff, will therefore be Ducati’s reference team in the Superbike World Championship’s EVO class, thanks to the esteem that the Borgo Panigalebased factory has for a team that has always fought to be in front.

Ready to take to the tracks with Team Althea’s 1199 Panigale EVO is Niccolò Canepa, a young but very experienced rider who has worked with Ducati in various teams in the past. Canepa undoubtedly has all of the skills and requisites needed to participate in the 2014 Superbike World Championship’s EVO class.

Genesio Bevilacqua: “I am extremely happy to be able to collaborate once again with Ducati, a brand and a company with which we have achieved great success and results that we fully intend to repeat. I am certain that next year we will be able to bring great satisfaction to our fans and consecrate Canepa among the top Superbike riders. I have full faith in Niccolò and am sure that he is the right rider for our new and stimulating project. I would like to thank Ducati for its trust that I am certain that our team will be able to repay with the utmost dedication.”

The Althea Racing team is to switch back to Ducati from Aprilia for the 2014 World Superbike season. After their split with Ducati over development of the Panigale at the end of 2012, the Italian team are to return to the Bologna factory fold and race the Panigale in 2014. They will do so on a different footing to their previous relationship with Ducati, however. Next season, Althea will race the Panigale 1199R as an EVO entry in WSBK, the subclass set up to allow a more affordable entry into World Superbikes. With WSBK looking set to switch completely to EVO rules in the next few years, having a strong partner to help develop the Panigale within the restrictions set by the EVO rules - basically, a Superstock-spec engine in Superbike-spec chassis - will help Ducati prepare for the future. Given how well the Panigale has performed in Superstock form wherever it has been able to use the Ducati ECU, the bike should suit the EVO rules well.The signing of Niccolo Canepa to race the Panigale with Althea is indicative of how close the cooperation with Ducati is likely to be. Canepa has a long history with Ducati, having functioned as a test rider for the Italian factory for a number of years, and having won the Superstock 1000 title on a Ducati in 2007, and raced Ducatis for the majority of his career. 

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