The Hondas of Alex Rins and Alex Marquez are separated by under two hundredths of a second at the top, with Niklas Ajo's Husqvarna taking the last slot of the provisional front row.
The first of the official announcements to be made over this weekend has arrived. Today, the FIM released the provisional version of the 2015 calendar for MotoGP.
The schedule is a virtual carbon copy of the 2014 calendar this year, with the order of the races the same as this year. A few minor tweaks have been applied to the calendar: the series kicks off in Qatar on 29th March, a week later than originally planned to avoid a TV clash with the soccer game between Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain. Two weeks later, the circus heads to Austin, and the following week to Argentina.
Having the two races in the Americas back-to-back will create a much easier schedule than this year, where the teams faced a very long journey back from Argentina to arrive on time for Jerez. With a year of experience under their belt, Dorna's logistics and TV crew are now certain they can get the Termas de Rio Hondo track ready within the few days they have after Austin.
Framco Morbidelli was strong throughout the session and ended up quickest, fighting off a challenge from Johann Zarco.
Marc Marquez led troughout most of the session, being kept honest by Jorge Lorenzo, but Andrea Iannone made use of the Ducati's power to set the fastest time by being a quarter of a second quicker than anyone else in the last sector, the long straight. Aleix Espagaro was second quickest.
Jack Miller opened the weekend by celebrating his new MotoGP job with a lap two thirds of a second quicker than anyone else, and under the current race record. Alex Marquez was second quickest in the cold session, and the distance between Miller and Marquez covered from second quickest to Roman Fenati in eleventh.
2014 Aragon MotoGP Thursday Round Up - Marquez' Decline, Hayden's Return, The Ducati GP14.2, And Miller's MotoGP Move
Things look a little different as the MotoGP paddock arrives at the spectacular Motorland Aragon circuit. After two defeats in the last three races, Marc Marquez is looking almost vulnerable. At Brno, Marquez and his team never found the right set up, and the 21-year-old Spanish prodigy finished off the podium for the first time in his MotoGP career. Two races later, at Misano, Marquez tried to compensate for a similar lack of set up by pushing hard for the win, but crashed chasing Valentino Rossi, and remounted to score just a solitary point.
Marquez had hoped to wrap up the title at Aragon, he told the press conference on Thursday, but the crash at Misano put an end to any such aims. He would have needed a win at both Misano and Aragon, and took a risk trying to beat an unleashed Rossi at his home track. Victory at Misano proved impossible, especially against a Rossi determined to win at any cost.
So can Marquez get back to winning ways at Aragon? On paper, this should be his opportunity to reassert his authority. Of the four previous visits to the circuit, Marquez has won two, come second once, and been dumped into the gravel at the first corner once, an incident he is still less than happy about. The circuit suits the Honda, the bike having won three of the four premier class outings at the track. It was only the first year where the Honda came up short, Dani Pedrosa only managing to come second to Casey Stoner on the Ducati.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams ahead of this weekend's Aragon round:
Press release previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of the Aragon Grand Prix:
Alex Lowes has extended his contract with the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team for another season. The 24-year-old Englishman is to stay in World Superbikes for 2015, where he will race the GSX-R1000.
Lowes' decision brings an end to rumors that the Englishman was set to join his brother in the Grand Prix paddock. Lowes had explored a number of options in Moto2, but none stacked up against remaining with the Voltcom Suzuki team in WSBK.
Who Lowes' teammate will be is uncertain. With Eugene Laverty set to move to MotoGP with the Aspar team, there is an empty seat in the team. The departure of Aprilia from WSBK puts a number or riders on the market, with Leon Camier and Loris Baz the top riders still without a ride
The press release from Suzuki announcing the re-signing of Lowes appears below:
LOWES RE-SIGNS FOR VOLTCOM CRESCENT SUZUKI
Team Suzuki Press Office – September 25.
Alex Lowes will continue his partnership with Voltcom Crescent Suzuki for the 2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship season.
Lowes is confident his progression with the Suzuki GSX-R will allow him to become a consistent front-runner during his second season in the Championship and the British racer is eager to return to the tracks he has been learning as part of his apprenticeship year.
After sitting out the last four races since Indianapolis, Nicky Hayden will ride a MotoGP bike again at the Motorland Aragon circuit. To help clarify his situation, and talk about the operation he underwent and the difficult period of rehabilitation which followed, the Drive M7 Aspar team issued a press release containing an interview with the American. In it, he answers many of the questions he will inevitably face over the weekend. This is Nicky Hayden's side of the story.
“Racing is my life, my passion, not just my job.”
After undergoing two operations on his right wrist in the space of just two months and missing four rounds of the MotoGP World Championship, DRIVE M7 Aspar rider Nicky Hayden finally returns to competitive action at Aragón this weekend. For those who doubted his return, Hayden is one of the most experienced and motivated riders in the paddock and for him, racing is life. The 'Kentucky Kid' is an icon of modern-day MotoGP, irrepressible in times of adversity and a man who does not know the meaning of the word 'NO.' He has needed every ounce of that courage and determination over the last few months as he has battled to overcome the worst injury of his career. Now, finally, the long wait is over.
What exactly did the operation that you underwent entail?
In our wrists we have two rows of tiny bones. They have removed the upper row, which was damaged. It sounds crazy but when you see the results on the X-ray it makes sense.
What was the main problem? Pain, lack of feeling, loss of strength?
The Gresini team may have abandoned Honda in the MotoGP class, but they have not left the Japanese manufacturer altogether. Today, the Italian team announced that they will be switching from KTM to Honda in the Moto3 championship. They will be keeping Enea Bastianini as their main rider, while Andrea Locatelli replaces Niccolo Antonelli on the second bike.
The switch to Honda comes with the encouragement from HRC. Honda is keen to bring Bastianini under their wing, the 16-year-old Italian having had a fantastic debut season in Moto3, scoring three podiums so far this year, living up to his nickname of 'Bestia', or The Beast. Gresini has signed a two-year deal with Bastianini, with an option to move him up to Moto2 for 2016.
The press release announcing the deal makes no further mention of Go&Fun, suggesting that the sponsorship deal with the Italian manufacturer of energy drinks will end not just in MotoGP, but in all three classes.
The upcoming MotoGP round at Aragon looks like being another busy week for official announcements. Press officers representing Dorna, the FIM and the teams will have their hands full managing the stream of news expected to come in Spain.
The two most eagerly awaited announcements are the MotoGP calendar, and the Moto2 and Moto3 rider line ups, in that order. The MotoGP calendar is almost certain to feature 19 races, and look very similar to the 2014 calendar, with the addition of Brazil, and the moving of the British Grand Prix from Silverstone to Donington. As usual, the season will kick off in Qatar, the Losail circuit paying a premium for the privilege.
The Qatar race had been expected to be run on 22nd March, that date coming a week after the F1 season opener in Australia, and a week before the second F1 race of the season at Sepang. However, it looks like MotoGP will be moved back a week to the 29th, as the 22nd of March sees the two biggest clubs in Spanish soccer face off, with Real Madrid set to meet Barcelona at the Camp Nou stadium on that Sunday night. While MotoGP is massive in Spain, it is still dwarved by the interest in soccer, and TV audiences will suffer. Moving to the 29th would mean running on the same weekend as F1, but the late evening slot for the race means there would be no overlap between the races.
Nicky Hayden is to get back to action after four races away recovering from surgery. The American had an operation to remove a row of bones in his right hand after the Sachsenring round of MotoGP, to deal with a chronic problem of pain and arthritis in his wrist. That problem stemmed from an injury he picked up back in 2011 at Valencia, his wrist, and especially his scaphoid, never fully healing again afterwards. Hayden had the scaphoid and two other bones removed, to prevent them from causing further problems.
Such a drastic surgical procedure required a long recovery time, Hayden having been absent from the MotoGP paddock for over two months. But his recovery has been progressing well, with strength and motion returning. Hayden has spent a lot of time riding dirt track, to get back the feel of racing a motorcycle, and now feels fit enough to attempt to ride a MotoGP bike again. The differences between riding dirt track and a MotoGP bike are large, and will show whether Hayden's wrist is strong enough yet or not. The American's aim at the moment is just to get the feel of riding a MotoGP bike again, and test his wrist. With three races back-to-back coming up after Aragon, it is a sensible precaution to try his wrist first, with time for it to recover afterwards.
Michael van der Mark will be moving up to the World Superbike class for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The move had been widely expected, after the 22-year-old Dutchman had shown a very strong progression in his second World Supersport season, culminating in clinching the title with a thrilling at the last round in Jerez.
Van der Mark is to stay with the Ten Kate team, who recognized his talent early and supported him throughout his European Superstock 600 and World Supersport career, putting him on the CBR1000RR in the Pata Honda WSBK squad. Though Van der Mark will be staying with the team, his contract is now directly with Honda, rather than with Ten Kate. The deal with Honda is a three-year one, with Van der Mark aiming to make the move to MotoGP after two seasons in World Superbikes with Pata Honda.
The Dutchman will be taking the place of the departing Jonathan Rea in the Pata Honda team. Though Rea had come close to signing a deal in the MotoGP paddock, where he had several offers, the 27-year-old is to make the switch to the Kawasaki team, where he will attempt to dethrone his new teammate and World Superbike champion Tom Sykes. The second slot in the Pata Honda team will be taken by Sylvain Guintoli.
Below is the press release issued by the Pata Honda team:
Two years of World Superbike for van der Mark and Honda
Corrado Cecchinelli Interview: The Goal Of MotoGP's Spec Software? More Usable, More Relevant To The Road
From 2016, the entire MotoGP class will switch to a single, spec software for the electronics on the bikes. Development of the software is to become a collaborative process, with the factories competing in MotoGP supplying code and requirements through a single website. This much we know. But what we don't know is much more interesting. Which technologies will be supported? Which functions will be available? How sophisticated will the software be? Who will lead the software process, the factories or Dorna?
To get answers to all of these questions and more I spoke to MotoGP's Director of Technology, Corrado Cecchinelli at Silverstone. He is the man in charge of the process of making the switch to the spec, or unified software, as it is now being called. Cecchinelli will manage the development process, and define the goal of the unified software, trying to create a level playing field for all of the competitors.
It was a long and interesting interview. We covered many subjects, from the logistics of the development process, to the technologies which will be allowed, to what Cecchinelli sees as the objective of the software, and the goals it should achieve. Cecchinelli described in some detail how the development process for the unified software is to work, and how the process will be managed. It will be a collaborative process, but it will not, as some fans had hoped, be a fully open process, with fully public access to the code.
Cecchinelli then set out his vision for the unified software, both in terms of implementation at the track and its application in production bikes. The goal is that any MotoGP-level electronics engineer should be able to extract the maximum performance from the software, rather than requiring mastery of an arcane and excessively complex piece of software. It should be fully usable by the engineers in the independent or non-factory teams, allowing them to use the software to its full potential. This is one of the complaints made by the Open teams at the Sepang test at the start of the year, when they were handed an extremely powerful, but extremely complex software update. The update was soon dropped, in favor of an evolution of the existing software.