Who can stop Marc Marquez? By the look of the FP2 timesheet, maybe Andrea Iannone can. The Pramac Ducati rider ended Friday just 0.007 behind Marquez, the closest anyone has been to him on a Friday since Qatar. Looks are, of course, deceptive, and if you dig a little deeper you see that Iannone's fastest lap, though impressive, was made using a tow from Dani Pedrosa, just as the Repsol Honda rider was setting his fastest lap of the session. Iannone also benefited from using the extra soft rear tire which Ducati is allowed to use, making it that little bit easier to post a quick lap.
Iannone should not be written off too quickly, however. Pedrosa slowed up to let Iannone past immediately after the pair had set their quick laps, and on the next clear lap, Iannone got into the 1'33s again, posting a time equal to Pedrosa's best lap, but this time, all on his own. Whether he convert that to consistent pace in the race remains to be seen. The Italian appears to be circulating around the 1'34.3 mark. Fast, but not fast enough to match what Marquez appears to be capable of.
For real race pace, you have to look a little further down the timesheets. Jorge Lorenzo appears to have refound his mojo, and is starting to grind out the laps. The Movistar Yamaha rider put in 16 full laps during FP2, 5 of which were 1'34.1s, plus a single lap of 1'34.054. This is the Lorenzo of old, working on consistent pace and slowly ratcheting up the pace. Lorenzo's pace is still no match for Marquez – the Repsol Honda man seems capable of banging in 1'33.8s at will – but it is clearly the best of the rest. It has taken four races for the real Jorge Lorenzo to make an appearance, but at least he is finally here.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice for the French Grand Prix at Le Mans:
As the MotoGP circus descends upon the charming French town of Le Mans this weekend, there is one question at the front of everybody's minds: can he do it? Can Marc Marquez continue his incredible string of poles and victories by winning at Le Mans? On the evidence of the 2014 season so far, you would have to say he can. But Le Mans is a different circuit, and one where a gaggle of Yamaha riders have gone well in the past. This could possibly be the first race since Qatar where Marquez is made to work for it.
Marquez has a lot going for him in France. Leaving aside his form – a perfect record of poles and wins this year, as well as being fastest in over half the sessions of free practice so far – the track looks to play to the Honda's strengths, on paper at least. The stop-and-go nature of the Le Mans track sees the bikes spend a lot of time under hard acceleration, with slower corners needing hard braking. The Honda's 'V' approach to the corners – brake late, turn hard, stand the bike up quickly and get on the gas – seems to be a much better fit to the Le Mans circuit than Yamaha's 'U' style – brake early, enter faster, carry more corner speed and smoothly wind on the throttle.
And yet Yamaha riders have won four of the last six races at the circuit. Jorge Lorenzo has won the French Grand Prix at Le Mans three times, and each time with a very comfortable margin over his competitors. Valentino Rossi has won here twice on a Yamaha, in 2005 and 2008, and finished second behind Lorenzo in 2010. It's even a track where Colin Edwards has shone in the past on a Yamaha – and where perhaps he can do well once again, despite hating the current Yamaha chassis he is riding at Forward Yamaha. This is the first in a series of circuits where Yamaha riders have dominated in the past. If Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi want to start fighting back against the might of Marquez, Le Mans is as good a place to start as any.
Press release previews from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of this weekend's French MotoGP round at Le Mans:
With the contracts of the four riders in Honda's and Yamaha's factory teams expiring at the end of 2014, real fireworks were expected when contract negotiations began for the 2015 season and beyond. But as the season progressed, those fireworks have turned into something of a damp squib, with it looking increasingly likely that the factory line ups will see little or no change for 2015.
The first contract has already been signed. Today, HRC announced that they have reached agreement with Marc Marquez for another two years, meaning that the 2013 world champion will stay with the Repsol Honda team for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Given Marc Marquez' perfect start to 2014 - four wins from four pole positions in the first four races - this comes as no surprise at all. Clearly, retaining the services of the reigning world champion and the man leading the championship was Honda's highest priority.
Press releases from the World Supersport and World Superbike teams after Sunday's races at Imola:
Press releases from the series organizer and World Superbike and World Supersport teams after qualifying at Imola:
Press releases from the series organizer and the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the first day of practice at Imola:
Repsol issued the following press release after the Estrella Galicia riders Alex Rins and Alex Marquez completed at two-day test at the Motorland Aragon circuit:
The Marc VDS Racing Team issued the following press release after two days of testing at the Almeria circuit in southern Spain:
Like Bridgestone, the Go&Fun Gresini Honda team have also developed the good habit of providing a post-race technical debrief with a member of their team after most races. Today, they issued a debrief with Cristian Gabarrini, formerly Casey Stoner's crew chief and now the technical lead providing support for Honda's RCV1000R production racer at each track. In the press release, Gabarrini discusses the progress the project has made so far, how HRC have handled the spec electronics, and the challenges faced by Scott Redding, especially, as one of the tallest and heaviest riders. As always, when Gabarrini speaks, there is something of interest to be learned:
SPAIN MOTOGP DEBRIEF WITH CRISTIAN GABARRINI
The Honda RCV1000R, the new machine especially developed by HRC for the brand new Open Class, is one of the major technical topics of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship.
One of the four “Production Racer” bikes on the grid is raced by Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Scott Redding: an interesting project, given that the Briton is a MotoGP rookie - the only one among the four riders who ride the RCV1000R - and counts on a technical package with different parts compared to his competitors, with Showa suspension and Nissin brake system (like his team-mate Bautista, who, however, rides the “Factory spec” RC213V).
Four races into the season we can begin to draw up a first assessment of the project: let’s see in detail with HRC’s Cristian Gabarrini, who is responsible for the entire RCV1000R program, which has been the work done so far on the bike and his relationship with the teams.
After Stefan Bradl underwent successful surgery to cure arm pump, the LCR Honda team issued the following press release:
BRADL UNDERGOES ARM SURGERY IN GERMANY
Munich, 7 May: LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl underwent surgery to treat the arm pump in his right forearm this morning in Germany, following a tough race in Jerez in which he has been plagued by the condition. The German, who even completed a post-race testing day on the Iberian track on Monday, rushed to Doctor Wolfgang Streifinger in Wertingen (near Augsburg in the State of Bavaria) and the need for a second surgery was diagnosed yesterday. In fact Bradl was already operated to treat arm pump symptoms on November 2012 and Dr. Xavier Mir in Barcelona carried out the surgery but, as happened to his colleague Dani Pedrosa recently, sometimes a second surgery is required especially after an intensive winter training programme.
Stefan: ”First of all I wish to thank Doctor Streifinger and his staff: we knew each other since 2010 when he operated me for the first time. After the arm pump problems I suffered in Jerez, we decided to treat the right forearm again and the operation was very quick: only 15 minutes. Now I am starting my recovery programme to be fit for the forthcoming GP in Le Mans”.
Press releases from the teams after Monday's test at Jerez:
Jerez was a tough round for MotoGP riders. Stefan Bradl suffered severe arm pump during the race on Sunday, where he finished in 10th place. But it seems that Dani Pedrosa was also suffering from a similar problem, despite riding to 3rd just short Valentino Rossi.
Despite not mentioning the problem all weekend, Pedrosa underwent surgery on Tuesday to help correct the problem. He was operated on by MotoGP's favorite Spanish surgeon, Dr Xavier Mir, who used microsurgery to expand the fascia in the muscles in his right forearm. The surgery was deemed a success, and Pedrosa will be released from hospital tomorrow morning.
Stefan Bradl will be entering hospital for a similar operation just as Pedrosa is returning home. Bradl already had surgery in Barcelona, from the same Dr Mir, back in 2012, which fixed the problem in the rear part of his arm. Now, however, Bradl is suffering problems in the front of his arm, and is scheduled to undergo surgery on Wednesday morning in Germany, according to Speedweek.