Jorge Lorenzo, on his final lap of the first Jerez free practice, nipped Honda's Dani Pedrosa by .003 for the top spot. Pedrosa, who led most of the session, was relegated to second. Valentino Rossi finished third, a little less than three-tenths off the pace. Cal Crutchlow, who held a top-three spot for most of FP1, finished fourth and COTA winner Marc Marquez came in at fifth, nearly eight-tenths from the top time. Actually, fifth marked a dramatic improvement for the rookie who appeared to struggle early in practice. None of the riders managed to reach Crutchlow's top time from the test here earlier in the year of 1'39.511. Expect times to continue to drop in the warming conditions.
Luis Salom waited until the end to show his hand and it was a winner with a time of 1'48.443 -- two-and-a-half tenths in front of second-place Jonas Folger. Niccolo Antonelli filled out the top three. Perhaps the big surprise of FP1 was Finnish rider Niklas Ajo who led most of the session, eventually putting his KTM into fourth on the timesheet. Overall, times were quick Friday. By the middle of the first practice session, the top 13 riders all had eclipsed the previous lap record of 1'49.760 set last year by Romano Fenati (who placed 16th in today's first practice).
The MotoGP paddock is assembled in all its splendor at Jerez, and it is positively bulging at the seams. Shiny new hospitality units (very shiny, in the case of the Go&Fun Gresini unit) now pack the paddock, the existing units larger and new units added, causing the paddock to loosen its belt and expand into the adjacent car park, sequestering part of the area previously reserved for team and media cars. Under a bright blue Andalusian sky, it really is looking at its most appealing.
The expanded paddock makes you understand why IRTA decided to ban Moto2 and Moto3 riders from having their motorhomes in the paddock, all of them now expelled. The riders themselves are less impressed. "It was nice to have somewhere you could zone out during the day, and relax," Scott Redding said of the change. Sitting in the hospitality and watching the world go by was very pleasant, but still left him on his guard, he explained. Private quiet time was gone.
And it also removes part of the socialization process which young riders used to undergo, with the Moto2 and Moto3 men wandering around the paddock chatting to team members and other riders, everyone getting to know each other, and catching up on the latest news and gossip. It was part of what made the paddock feel like a village; a small Italian village, high in the mountains, with an inexplicably male-dominated population. The Moto2 and Moto3 riders added much to the fun of the place, spending most of their evenings challenging each other to wheelie competitions on mountain bikes and scooters. The paddock loses much with the change, feeling more like a workplace than a community.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams ahead of this weekend's race at Jerez:
Previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 riders and teams ahead of this weekend's race at Jerez:
Suzuki's MotoGP contender has made another 'surprise' appearance, this time being spotted in Japan. The respected US publication Cycle World has their legendary technical editor Kevin Cameron break down the changes to the bike between the first time it was spotted and this time, and his analysis makes for fascinating reading.
According to Cameron, the bike remains an inline four, though the exhaust has been modified from a four-into-two-into-one to a four-into-one. The firing order - the Cycle World story says it retains a big-bang firing order, sounding like Yamaha's M1 - also remains, but the chassis and swingarm has undergone major changes. Flexibility has been added to the swingarm, and the bike looks physically smaller.
So we're back in Europe. Despite the eerie beauty of the night race at Qatar, despite the magnificent splendor of the Circuit of the America's facilities, Jerez still feels like the first proper race of the MotoGP season. The paddock is set up in its full regalia, and all of the hospitality trucks present; the fans will be out in full force - or at least much fuller force than in the previous two races, despite the entirely respectable attendance figures at Austin - and everyone knows the score: where the track entrance is, where the truck park is, where the media center is, what the schedule is. Things have now returned to normal, and we are about to embark on the meat and potatoes section of the championship.
And here we highlight precisely where the weakness of MotoGP lies: Jerez feels like home, and everyone in the paddock immediately feels much more comfortable here than at the previous two races. It is symptomatic of the Eurocentric (and Iberocentric) nature of MotoGP and world championship racing in general that the paddock is so very far inside its comfort zone here. If MotoGP is to expand to the world, this is one thing which urgently needs addressing.
Yet it is hard not to feel comfortable at Jerez. The city still has much of its old world charm, and sports a veneer of wealth from its former role at the center of the trade with the New World, at the height of Spain's conquest of South and Central America. There are also signs of decay; one of the largest motorcycle dealerships on the main drag into town from the circuit has a 'for rent' sign up, though it is still open for business. Downtown, the beggars on the street have changed: no longer is it just those who have clearly always struggled on the fringes of society; now, ordinary men and women ejected from their homes in the wake of mass unemployment and the crisis in Spain's banking system stand, heads down, throwing themselves upon the mercy of passers by. It is a hard sight to bear, in one of the most beautiful places the MotoGP circus visits all year.
MotoGP fans will get a small glimpse of Ducati's future at Jerez this weekend. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro is due to make his first wildcard appearance of the season at the Spanish track. Most significantly, Pirro is to ride Ducati's so-called lab bike at Jerez, which contains a number of major updates to the Desmosedici GP13.
Though it is unclear exactly what Pirro will be riding - in the Ducati press release, Vitto Guareschi says only that Pirro's Ducati "will have some new development parts that will help us to focus on the development for the rest of the championship" - it seems likely that he will be racing the bike he has been busy testing. This machine, first seen at the Sepang test, was also the bike Pirro spent a lot of time testing at Jerez.
One of the things that has often struck me as I move around the track at a MotoGP round is the amount of cable Dorna sets up to deliver their TV coverage. Many kilometres of cables run around the entire circuit, are spliced into a complex network of amplifiers, antennas, and cameras, and eventually lead back to Dorna’s TV center in the paddock. In Qatar I was chatting with Pol Bardolet, one of the Dorna staff who is part of the TV and video production department, and he kindly arranged for me to speak with Sergi Sendra, Director of Dorna Sports TV Production. In Austin we sat down for a few minutes on Friday so that I could ask him about how he and his team deliver TV coverage of 18 rounds of Grand Prix racing.
MotoMatters: Most if not all of our readers regularly watch MotoGP on television, but I don’t think many of them have any idea how complicated it is for you to set that up for each race then get it packed up and on to the next event. So, to start off can you tell me a little bit about how you do it?
The 2013 MotoGP season has only just got underway, but as is seemingly customary in MotoGP now, thoughts are already turning to next year. With eight of the twelve men on factory prototypes on two-year contracts, the most attractive seats already appear to be taken. There is no room for any movement at either the factory Yamaha or factory Honda teams, and only one seat potentially available at the factory Ducati team. Both satellite Honda seats are taken for 2014, as is Bradley Smith's seat at the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team.
Despite this, there are some intriguing possibilities being played out. The most desirable seat still left is almost certainly the second Monster Tech 3 Yamaha seat currently occupied by Cal Crutchlow. Despite the Englishman's outstanding performance since last year, Crutchlow may not be able to hold on to his seat. There have been credible reports since 2012 that Yamaha have a keen interest in Moto2 title favorite Pol Espargaro, and in the run up to the season opener at Qatar, rumors emerged that Espargaro is already in talks with Yamaha for 2014.
Press releases from the World Superbike series organizer, and World Superbike and World Supersport teams, after Sunday's thrilling races at Assen:
The World Superbike standings after a weekend's racing in the Netherlands make for interesting reading. The day gave us good weather that got better as the day went on and thrilling racing that followed the weather. There were ups and downs, winners and losers and those who leave with a mixture of both.