Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS has taken a lot longer to take shape than expected. Though team manager Michael Bartholémy had agreed terms with his chosen rider quite quickly after the summer break, actually getting contracts signed has proven to be a much more difficult affair. Existing contract entanglements and haggling over contract extensions has meant that the original plans, to have Moto2 announced at Misano, and when that didn't happen, all of the team's riders announced after Aragon, have all gone awry.
Slowly, however, the Marc VDS team manager is managing to untangle the knotty web woven mainly by others. After announcing last week that Tito Rabat would be moving up to MotoGP with the team for 2016, this week, the team has announced their Moto2 line up. It comes as no surprise: Alex Marquez is to remain with the team for a second year in Moto2, while Franco Morbidelli is to join Marc VDS from the Italtrans team. After a difficult start to his rookie season, Alex Marquez has come good in the second half, becoming a regular fixture in the top 10. Morbidelli has completely outperformed his teammate Mika Kallio, an impressive feat given that Kallio was runner up in the Moto2 championship in 2014.
Alex De Angelis remains in hospital in Japan after his horrific crash during practice at Motegi. He suffered multiple injuries in the accident, including fractured vertebrae, broken ribs and contusions on the lung. He also took a severe blow to the head, rendering him unconscious. Though CT scans of his brain showed no initial damage, on Sunday, the Italian developed some intercranial bleeding, or bleeding in the brain. De Angelis was kept under sedation, to reduce the pain from his fractures, and to allow the doctors to stabilize his condition.
On Monday, Dorna issued an update on De Angelis' condition. So far, the intercranial bleeding is stable, a positive sign that it is under control, for the moment at least. The doctors were able to reduce his level of sedation, and De Angelis was able to speak to them, and tell them that he knew where he was and what day it was.
Saturday at Motegi had offered the mouthwatering prospect of the battle we have been waiting for all year. Valentino Rossi had cracked his qualifying jinx and lined up on the grid next to Jorge Lorenzo. The pair were close in qualifying times and in race pace, and with 14 points separating them in the championship, there was a lot at stake. Finally, we might get to see Rossi and Lorenzo go head to head in the struggle for supremacy, and to seize the momentum in the MotoGP title race.
As has so often been the case, the hopes of the fans withered on the vine on race day. The rain wrecked any chance of a straight and open battle between the two protagonists in the title chase, throwing the day's schedule into disarray, and turning what could have been an all-out war into a cagey battle of tactics.
We may not have been given what we hoped for, but there was still plenty for the fans to get their teeth into. Jorge Lorenzo looked to have the race sewn up by the halfway mark, but a slowly drying track blew the race wide open. There were very few direct battles, at least not up front, but an increasingly dry line radically changed the dynamic of the race. There was tension, there were surprises, myths and shibboleths were shattered. The championship took on a new impetus, and the strain of the fight going down to the line started to take its toll. This is going to be a tough year for the men who would be champion.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after Sunday's race at Motegi:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races at Motegi:
2015 Motegi Saturday Round Up: The Key To Rossi's Qualifying, The Perils Of Data Sharing, And Fast Fenati, Finally
Has Valentino Rossi finally mastered qualifying? The Italian has struggled since the format changed, from the extended hour of qualifying which started out as free practice and ended up as an all-out time attack, to the frenetic fifteen-minute dash for pole. His biggest problem, he always explained, was getting up to speed from the start: leaving pit lane and going flat out from the very first meters. He had spent a lifetime slowly sidling up to a blistering lap, rather than getting the hammer down as soon as the lights changed. The switch from an analog to a binary format had been hard to swallow. Millions of older fans sympathized, as they faced the same struggle in their own lives.
Lorenzo, on the other hand, has thrived in the new format, having learned the skill while doing battle with Casey Stoner. The Australian's greatest legacy was his ability to go as fast as possible the moment he left the pit lane. I was once told by Cristian Gabarrini, Stoner's crew chief, that when they looked at his sector times, they would see that he had set his fastest sector times on his out lap. To beat Stoner, Lorenzo had to learn to emulate him. That ability has benefited him twofold: firstly, in the new qualifying format, he can put the hammer down right out of pit lane, without any mental preparation for speed. Secondly, Lorenzo has been able to convert those pole positions into a lot of wins by being able to blast off the line and into the lead before the first corner, then open a gap which his pursuers can never bridge.
That blistering speed has given Lorenzo an added advantage in qualifying. By having the pace to push from the start, he cuts vital seconds from the out lap. Those seconds add up, and can under some circumstances mean the difference between managing to get in for two stops, and being forced to make do with a single stop. There are upsides and downsides to both approaches: more stops means you need more tires, both front and rear, to be able to extract the maximum lap time. You have no time to make set up adjustments, and you are usually forced into swapping bikes as well, something riders often do not like as the two bikes can feel slightly different.