Valentino Rossi leaves the second Sepang test as fastest overall, after finding a burst of pace early in the day to crack the two-minute barrier. So happy with his progress in testing this year was the Italian that he told the press afterwards he was already seriously considering a contract for 2015 and 2016, as long as his results during race weekends improve along the same lines as his pace in testing.
Dani Pedrosa took second spot, finishing with the same time as Rossi after chasing a time at the end of the day. But the Repsol Honda man had to cede top spot to Rossi, as Rossi had posted faster times during the day. The clear progress Ducati have made with the GP14 was evident from Andrea Dovizioso's time, the Italian setting the fastest ever time on a Ducati around the Sepang circuit. Clear improvement on braking and corner entry have made a big difference to the performance of the bike. Dovizioso set his best time using the factory software, though he later did a long run using the Open configuration, running a string of laps in the high 2'01s and low 2'02s.
2014 MotoGP Sepang 2 Day 2 Round Up: The Old New Tire, Lorenzo's Lamentations, And Ducati's Open Future (Again)
A cleaner track made for better times at the second MotoGP test at Sepang on Thursday, but conditions remain far from ideal. The track was still greasy, and the added heat made the situation worse. That meant the track remained empty for large parts of the day, the riders waiting for temperatures to come down at the end of the day.
When the riders did go for their fast laps, the usual suspects raised their heads. Aleix Espargaro was quick, Alvaro Bautista was quick, but if anyone was in any doubt about where the real power lies on the MotoGP grid, Dani Pedrosa quickly disabused them of their misconceptions. The Repsol Honda man posted two scorching laps, faster than anyone else was capable of riding. At nearly three tenths of a second, the gap was convincing. When Dani Pedrosa decides to exert his authority, the world listens. Especially when his teammate is absent.
Pedrosa spent the day working on the front of the Repsol Honda, and deciding on which of the two chassis to use for the rest of the year. The quicker of the two options was also less forgiving under braking, meaning Pedrosa elected to pursue the slower of the two frames. Sacrificing a little bit of speed for more stability and less effort to ride seemed like a suitable trade off.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams on the second day of testing at Sepang:
Dani Pedrosa put in a blistering lap at the end of the session to lead the second day of testing for the MotoGP class at Sepang. On a track which was much improved from Wednesday, Pedrosa - still suffering from jet lag and physically weakened - put himself nearly three tenths clear of the field.
Second slot was once again filled by Aleix Espargaro, proving that the Open Yamaha can put in fast single laps with ease. Whether Aleix can maintain that pace over a full race is still uncertain, as the elder of the two Espargaro brothers has yet to put in a race simulation. Yesterday's fastest man Alvaro Bautista was quick once again, grabbing third just under half a second off the time of Pedrosa. The new Showa rear shock is proving consistently better for the Gresini Honda man. Bautista also put in a race simulation, but was slower than the other satellite Honda, Stefan Bradl also having put in a race simulation. Though Bradl was only 6th on the timesheets, his race run was strong, consistently posting laps in the low 2'01.
2014 MotoGP Sepang 2 Day 1 Round Up: The Tire Pendulum Swings Against Yamaha, And Ducati's Open Future
If the first Sepang test threw up a few surprises, the first day of the second test turned into a bit a shocker. Anyone putting money on Alvaro Bautista, Aleix Espargaro and his brother Pol being the top 3 at the end of the first day would very, very rich indeed. Though all three had good reason to be further up front – Bautista has a new rear shock from Showa which is a big step forward, Aleix has been fast throughout, and Pol has the new seamless gearbox from Yamaha – their speed should not be seen as presaging a revolution in MotoGP. A dirty track, and several riders not chasing times gave the trio a chance to shine, which they seized with both hands.
Things did not look promising at the start of the day. The track was in poor condition, still dirty after a recent Ferrari test. The Kuala Lumpur region has had no rain for months now, which usually helps to clean the track in between tests. The situation was so bad that the circuit offered to spray the track clean with water, an offer which turned out not to be necessary. Having 23 bikes circulating helped sweep the track fairly well as the day progressed. By Thursday, the track should be in much better shape.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of testing at Sepang:
Marc Marquez will not ride at the Phillip Island test, scheduled for next week, and will only return to riding at the first race of the season at Qatar. After meeting with Dr Xavier Mir in Barcelona today, Marquez was told it would be better to rest and recuperate as fully as possible before attempting to ride a MotoGP bike again.
The decision to wait until the race at Qatar also settles a potential argument over testing at Phillip Island and Qatar. HRC had been contemplating sending Marquez to test with the satellite and Open class riders at Qatar, rather than the factory riders at Phillip Island, where they are testing tires for Bridgestone. Honda asked Race Direction for permission to allow Marquez to test at Qatar, but Yamaha and Ducati lodged an objection.
The split between factory and non-factory testing had been agreed at the end of last year, to give Bridgestone a chance to test tires, but Yamaha and Ducati feared that Marquez would gain an unfair advantage if he was allowed to test at Qatar just a week ahead of the season opener. If Marquez was to test at Qatar, Yamaha said, then Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi would test at Qatar as well, abandoning the tire test.
MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
The death of bike racing in the US?
I’m at Sepang, where the pitlane reverberates to the sound of two dozen MotoGP bikes warming up for the second pre-season test of the year.
Despite criticism and the slings and arrows of the global economic crisis (which has now been going on longer than the Second World War), MotoGP isn’t in bad shape. There are more bikes on the grid than at any time since the glory days of the 990s, when the free-spending tobacco industry paid most of the bills. And there are more rounds than ever before; at least there were until the Brasilia race dropped off the calendar.
Contrast this to the fortunes of America’s AMA Superbike championship, which is in deep, deep crisis.
Testing is once again underway at Sepang, on a track in far from perfect conditions, due in part to some car testing done in the period after the last test, and in part due to an uncharacteristing complete lack of rain in the region. Mixed conditions gave new faces a chance to shine, with Alvaro Bautista grabbing the top spot in the dying moments of the test, when most of the riders switched to qualifying mode.
Bautista's Showa-shod Gresini Honda was followed closely by the Forward Yamaha Open bike of Aleix Espargaro, and the Tech 3 Yamaha of younger brother Pol. The Espargaro brothers were strong at the first test, and have continued to shine in the second. Andrea Dovizioso was fourth fastest on the factory Ducati, still in Factory Option configuration, rather than as Open, while Jorge Lorenzo set the 5th fastest time, three tenths off the pace of Alvaro Bautista.
Dani Pedrosa ended the session in 6th, though the difference with Lorenzo was negligible, just two thousandths of a second. Valentino Rossi was a couple of tenths slower, ending in 7th ahead of LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl and the second Tech3 Yamaha of Bradley Smith. Nicky Hayden rounded out the top ten, having closed the gap a great deal to the front, Hayden now just 1.4 seconds behind the leader, rather than nearly 2, which happened at the first test.
MotoGP returns to the track at Sepang in just a few hours, and the second test at the Malaysian circuit offers just as much intrigue as the first did. Interest at Sepang 2 centers on notable absentees, Ducati's plans, and progress made so far. There is much to watch in Malaysia.
One thing we know for sure. Marc Marquez will not be the fastest man at the second Sepang test. The reigning world champion dominated the first test at the beginning of the month, but a training crash saw him fracture his right fibula. Even in adversity, Marquez' luck held, the injury being relatively quick to heal, the bone not being displaced. He will definitely be back in action at the first race of the year in Qatar, and he could possible attend the Bridgestone test at Phillip Island early next week, but he will be forced to miss Sepang 2.
With Marquez out, others will have a chance to shine, though the question of how any times set would hold up if the Repsol Honda man had been present will remain. Nobody had an answer to Marquez' pace at the first test – especially when you compare his race pace on long runs – and his rivals will have to drop well under the two-minute mark to make an impression.
On the eve of the second MotoGP test at Sepang, the Drive M7 Aspar team held its launch at the circuit, presenting its new livery to the assembled press. Afterwards, they issued the following press releases, containing details of the team, the bike, and biographies of both riders, Nicky Hayden and Hiroshi Aoyama. The press releases and photos of the livery are shown below:
DRIVE M7 ASPAR TEAM PRESENTS 2014 LINE-UP AT SEPANG
Spanish outfit unveils its most international line-up yet at Sepang, with two former World Champions and new Malaysian energy drink DRIVE M7 on board as title sponsor
Movistar is to sponsor Yamaha's MotoGP effort. At the presentation of Movistar's broadcast plans for the Grand Prix series in Spain last week, Luis Belo, Content Director for the Spanish telecommunications giant's digital TV channel Movistar TV, let slip that the company would also be backing the Yamaha Factory team in MotoGP, Spanish magazine Solomoto is reporting. The announcement confirms rumors of a deal between Movistar and Yamaha which have been doing the rounds since December. Yamaha have yet to officially confirm the deal, but that is only a matter of time.
The deal mirrors the situation in Italy, where new pay-per-view broadcaster Sky is backing the Moto3 team run in conjunction with Valentino Rossi's VR46 merchandising brand, fielding Romano Fenati and Francesco 'Pecco' Bagnaia. To help promote the pay-per-view channels which MotoGP is being broadcast on in Spain and Italy, Movistar and Sky are backing major teams in the championship. This is important for the two channels, as some of the races are also being broadcast on free-to-air channels in both Spain and Italy, in some cases on a tape delay basis. Having visible exposure on the bikes helps reinforce the message to audiences.
The FIM has today released the final, official version of the 2014 MotoGP calendar. As expected, the Brazil round has been dropped, after it became clear that construction work at the Autodromo Nelson Piquet in Brasilia would not be completed in time for the September round. To ease the congestion in that part of the season, the date of the Aragon round has now been pushed back a week, and will take place on 28th September, the date originally scheduled for Brazil.
The dropping of the Brazil round had been expected almost from the moment it was placed on the schedule. There were serious doubts that the circuit would be able to make the necessary changes in time for September 2014, and teams were informed of the doubts which Dorna and IRTA had. The inclusion of Brazil was a statement of intent, with both Dorna and the manufacturers keen to return to South America, as both Brazil and Argentina are key markets. Actually racing in Brazil will depend one of the circuits still in the country being able to make the necessary modifications to make it safe enough for Grand Prix motorcycles.
Below is the official, finalized version of the 2014 MotoGP calendar:
Herve Poncharal Interview: On The Open Yamaha Of Aleix Espargaro, The Future Of MotoGP, And Seamless Gearboxes
Perhaps the biggest surprise after the first day of testing at Sepang was the sheer, unadulterated speed of Aleix Espargaro on the Forward Yamaha, racing in the Open category. Seventh fastest, half a second off the fastest factory Yamaha of Valentino Rossi, and ahead of the two Tech 3 riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. By lunchtime on the second day, Aleix was closer still, just two tenths off the best Yamaha.
Naturally, all eyes turned to the Tech 3 garage, and the response of team boss Herve Poncharal. How would the otherwise charming Frenchman react to being beaten by a bike which Yamaha was supplying to a rival team for a third of the price he is paying to lease the Tech 3 Yamaha M1 machines, entered under the Factory Option rules in MotoGP? A long line of journalists beat a path to his door, including MotoMatters.com, to put those questions to him.
Poncharal spoke at length about the Open class, the issue of fuel consumption, and the performance of Aleix Espargaro. First of all, though, he emphasized the strength of his relationship with Yamaha.
Surprises are the only thing that can be safely predicted about motorbike racing, and Phillip Island is unique enough to deliver them in spades. The long gap, dseven weeks before the second race, gives Phillip Island the air of pre-season testing … with points.