Jorge Lorenzo has taken charge of the MotoGP class at Silverstone once again, putting in a fast lap early, beating his own fastest lap from this morning by nearly six tenths of a second, then upping the pace at the end. Marc Marquez tried to chase Lorenzo down, but came up just few hundredths short to end in 2nd. Bradley Smith had a very strong session, ending FP2 in 3rd, just under two tenths off the pace of Lorenzo, and threatening Lorenzo's time on his fast lap, before losing out at the end.
Dani Pedrosa was the second Repsol Honda time, hugely improving his time from the morning. Andrea Dovizioso ended the session in 5th, just ahead of Aleix Espargaro, who put in a fast lap at the end to jump into the top 10. Aleix finished ahead of his brother Pol, the Tech 3 Yamaha rider ending in 7th, ahead of the second factory Ducati of Andrea Iannone. Iannone had a small crash towards the end of the session, but walked away unharmed.
Scott Redding ended FP2 in 9th, after a strong start to free practice, while Valentino Rossi sneaked into 10th, the Movistar Yamaha rider only just securing his spot in Q2 by a hundredth of a second.
Romano Fenati topped the afternoon session for the Moto3 class at Silverstone, beating fellow Italian Niccolo Antonelli into 2nd. Alexis Masbou had strong session to take 3rd, while Jorge Navarro ended the session in 4th. After missing the morning session when a stone hit the bike and caused an oil leak, Kent ended FP2 in 6th, three quarters of a second behind Fenati. Enea Bastianini had fast crash during the session, and ended down in 26th.
Johann Zarco has topped the first session of free practice for the Moto2 class at Silverstone. The Frenchman was fast early, but came under sustained attack from Sam Lowes, the British rider swapping top spot with Zarco in the session, and coming up just short of Zarco at the end. Jonas Folger took 3rd spot, ahead of Tito Rabat and Lorenzo Baldassarri.
Marc Marquez has started Silverstone in determined mood, topping the first session of free practice for the MotoGP class from early in the session and never relinquishing his lead. Jorge Lorenzo ended the sesssion in second, but four tenths slower than Marquez, and nearly half a second faster than his teammate Valentino Rossi. A brace of Ducatis followed, Andrea Iannone ahead of his teammate Andrea Dovizioso. Scott Redding had a strong first session, ending FP1 in 6th, less than two tenths behind Rossi in 3rd, and first satellite rider. Bradley Smith put the Tech 3 Yamaha into 7th, ahead of Dani Pedrosa.
With good weather expected this afternoon, and the possibility of rain on Saturday, the FP2 session this afternoon is likely to be crucial, and hard fought. A top 10 spot will be vital in FP2 if riders are to avoid the ignominy of going through Q1.
Jorge Navarro kicked off the British Grand Prix as fastest Moto3 rider, the Estrella Galicia man topping the timesheets on a cold but sunny Silverstone. Navarro put his Honda in front of a gaggle of KTMs, with Brad Binder at the lead, Isaac Viñales - now substituting for Niklas Ajo - and Miguel Oliveira, while Enea Bastianini took 5th slot. The day got off to a bad start for Danny Kent, the British rider suffering a technical problem with his Leopard Racing Honda, oil leaking from the engine, Kent forced to park up and sit out the session.
2015 Silverstone MotoGP Preview: The Ryanair Round, Silverstone's Peculiar Challenges, And The Silly Season Latest
The Irish budget airline Ryanair gained something of a reputation for being, shall we say, creative with the names of the airports it flies to. Fancy a trip to Sweden? They will fly you to Stockholm Skavsta, a mere 100 km from the city of Stockholm. The same trick is played out time and time again: Paris Beauvais? Beauvais is a charming French city, and well worth a visit, but it is very long way from the French capital. Munich West (Memmingen)? 112 km west of the Bavarian capital.
So perhaps we should call this British GP the Ryanair MotoGP round. Officially, it is being run by the Circuit of Wales, located in Ebbw Vale, South Wales. Yet the race is to be run around the Silverstone circuit, nearly 200 km further East. Close, it is not. How did it end up at Silverstone? Thereby hangs a long and convoluted tail.
The Circuit of Wales won the contract to organize the British round of MotoGP back in 2014, after outbidding Silverstone, who had been pushing to have the sanctioning fee for MotoGP reduced, as crowds at the circuit were not living up to expectations. Awarding the contract to the Circuit of Wales was a gamble by Dorna. The track existed only as a CAD file on a designer's computer, and the Head of the Valleys Development Company, the company behind the circuit, did not even have permission to actually build on the land they planned to put the circuit on.
Press release previews from the MotoGP teams and more:
Press release previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
Yesterday, it was Bradley Smith, today it is Cal Crutchlow. On Wednesday, the LCR Honda team announced that Cal Crutchlow will be riding with the team for two more seasons. The deal will see Crutchlow staying with LCR for 2016, giving him an option to stay on for 2017 as well.
Crutchlow's deal has been a long time coming. Talks were started as early as Barcelona, with Crutchlow looking for a two-year extension with LCR. Honda were keen to keep Crutchlow within the ranks, as the Englishman has been able to provide valuable feedback to HRC for the RC213V. With Honda having taken a wrong path for this season, having an extra rider to provide development input has been important. Crutchlow's results have been solid this year, including a podium at Argentina, though he has also found himself in the gravel a number of times.
There had been a brief flirtation with Pramac Ducati, Crutchlow entering talks with the satellite Ducati team about racing for the Italian factory once again. This, however, appears to have been more of a bargaining chip to use with Honda, rather than a serious attempt to return to the fold at Bologna.
Bradley Smith has signed on for another season with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. The British rider has extended his contract, and will continue to ride for the team in 2016.
The announcement and its timing had been widely expected, coming as it does just days before the start of the British round of MotoGP at Silverstone. Smith had made it clear since before the summer break that he wanted to stay with Tech 3, but the contract took longer to put together than hoped. Smith spoke of his frustration about the situation at Indianapolis, though by Brno, some progress appeared to have been made. The deal was finalized shortly after the Czech round of MotoGP, just in time to be announced at his home race.
The stumbling block to a new contract was ensuring that Smith received equal treatment with Tech 3 teammate Pol Espargaro for 2016. This had been a thorn in Smith's side throughout the season, as upgrades such as a new chassis arrived on Espargaro's side of the garage, but were not available for Smith. As the Englishman has lead his teammate in the championship throughout the 2015 season, Smith felt that he too deserved better treatment from Yamaha. Talks with the factory at Indianapolis helped clear the air, opening the way for a deal to be signed.
Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi head into Silverstone tied on points, with Lorenzo only leading because he has more wins to his name this season than his teammate. With the race that close, who does the season favor? Who will emerge victorious at the end? It is far too early to make any firm predictions, but perhaps we can guess from looking at last year.
There are seven races left in 2015, and the seven left this season are the exact same races in the exact same order as the last seven of 2014. That parallel invites comparisons, and the drawing of conclusions, though such conclusions are tenuous at best. However, there are tracks which favor Rossi, and tracks which favor Lorenzo, and their performance there may yet be indicative of the final outcome.
First, the numbers. Both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo currently have 211 points after the first 11 races. With seven races left, there are a grand total of 175 points still up for grabs. Though neither rider is likely to run the board – they are too evenly matched for that – a look back at their performances last year can be instructive.
In the last seven races of 2014, Rossi won two, at Misano and Phillip Island, and Lorenzo won two, at Aragon and Motegi. Lorenzo took three second places, while Rossi ended in second just twice. Rossi ended in third two times, Lorenzo just a single time, and both riders scored a blank due to poor weather. Rossi crashed at Aragon on a damp track, while Lorenzo retired after a tire change at Valencia in half-wet, half-dry conditions.
With the news that the Brno round of MotoGP has been handed to a consortium consisting of local and regional governments, and that they are working to secure the long-term future of Brno, a major piece of the puzzle surrounding MotoGP's schedule for 2016 slotted into place. Brno, along with Indianapolis, had been the two biggest question marks still hanging over the calendar.
Most of the schedule fell into place once Formula One announced its calendar several weeks ago. The combination of an unusually late start (F1 kicks off in Melbourne on 4th April, two weeks later than last year) and an expansion of the schedule to 21 races has left few gaps for MotoGP to fit into. The upside to F1's late start is that MotoGP can get a head start on its four-wheeled counterpart, and kick the season off before F1 begins.
Preseason testing is slightly altered for 2016. Instead of two tests at Sepang, the MotoGP teams will head from Sepang to Phillip Island, and then on to Qatar, for a final test before the start of the season. Testing starts on the first three days of February, spending the 1st to the 3rd at Sepang, for the first start of the year. From there, the circus moves to Australia, for a three-day test at Phillip Island from 17th to the 19th February, before heading back across the equator to Qatar. MotoGP will test at the Losail circuit on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of March.
Michelin Speaks: Piero Taramasso On 2016 Tire Allocations, Front Tires, Intermediates, And Performance
The change of official tire suppliers for MotoGP, with Bridgestone departing and Michelin arriving, is arguably the most significant change to the class since the series went to a single tire in 2009. Changing tire manufacturers has a massive impact on everything, from bike design to rider preference, and Michelin face a huge challenge to get everything ready in time. Bridgestone helped by staying on for an extra year to allow Michelin to properly prepare, and the tires which the French manufacturer have been developing are looking very promising.
Their preparations have not been helped by conditions. Test days have been hit by rain, with testing severely hampered. This was also the case at Brno, when the majority of the MotoGP field was due to get their first outing on the Michelins since Sepang, though the factory riders had a chance to test after Mugello. The rain did give a group of journalists a chance to grill Piero Taramasso, Michelin's manager of two wheel motorsports activities.
Had the weather affected their plans for the test at Brno, we asked? "The plan was to test in dry condition so it looks like it will be not the case," Taramasso replied. "We brought some new solutions for the front. For example we had the same profile with two different casings and three different compounds. For rear tires same profile, two different casings, and two different compounds. So this was the plan."
The Massive Silly Season Update: Redding vs Kent At Pramac, Honda's Musical Chairs, Moto2 And Much More
Brno was a busy time for teams, managers and riders. Apart from dealing with jet lag and the sweltering heat, silly season kicked off in force at the Czech round of MotoGP. The summer break and the chaos which ensued from the situation around the Forward Racing team put everything on hold over the summer, with tentative talks starting at Indianapolis. Those talks, and events outside the paddock, helped clarify the situation, and at Brno talks began in earnest. The empty spaces on the MotoGP grid are starting to be filled.
The weekend kicked off with the fairly sensational news that Danny Kent was talking to Pramac Ducati about a ride in MotoGP, going straight from Moto3 and skipping Moto2. The deal on the table would be a three-year deal with support from the factory, racing a GP15 alongside Danilo Petrucci. It was an offer Kent was giving very serious consideration, and expected to think about in the run up to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Given that Octo is the title sponsor of the Silverstone round, and also the sponsor of the Pramac Ducati team, announcing a British rider at the British GP would be a sponsor's dream.
Signing Kent has not come out of the blue. The Moto3 championship leader has made it clear he will not be back in Moto3 next year, whatever happens. Kent has options in Moto2, most notably with his current Kiefer team, who run on the Leopard Racing banner. Kiefer are set to move up to Moto2 in 2016, and are keen to retain the services of Kent. But Kent sees 2016 would be an ideal moment to make the jump to MotoGP, given the technical changes which are coming next season. Michelin tires, as the biggest change, will mean a much more level playing field, as everyone in MotoGP, veteran and rookie, will have to work to figure out how to get the most out of them. The more rear-biased style, using the extra grip of the rear to carry more corner speed, may also help a rookie coming up from Moto3. Ducati certainly think the switch might work, Davide Tardozzi telling me at Brno "this is not something we thought up last night, we have been thinking about this for a while."