2014 Austin MotoGP Friday Round Up: Dealing With Marquez, And Tires And Their Future

How do you solve a problem like Marc Marquez? The short answer is you don't. You can push as hard as you like, beat everyone else on the grid, but try as you might, you still find yourself a second or more behind the reigning world champion. Marquez came to Texas, he saw, and he conquered. Just like last year. And nobody seems capable of stopping him.

Valentino Rossi could only shake his head in dismay. 'Today he was very strong. He is on another level,' Rossi said. Was it down to the bike, was it Marquez? Sure, Austin is a Honda track – first-gear corners are still where the Honda has the advantage – but the bike wasn't really the issue. 'He makes the difference,' Rossi said. Sure, the bike was good, but it was mostly down to Marquez' riding. Speaking to the Italian press, Rossi had a single word to describe Marquez' riding: 'bellissima'. Beautiful.

Where was he gaining the time? Basically everywhere. MotoMatters.com's photographer Scott Jones' keen eye watched Marquez through Turn 11, the hairpin before the back straight. Coming out of the corner, the front goes light and when the tire hits the ground again, the bike puts on a bit of a headshake. Where other riders work hard to control the bike, backing off or struggling to handle the bike, Marquez just holds it wide open, lets the bike wag its head as much as it likes before it sorts itself out. Marquez was the only rider to get into the 2'03s, and he did it multiple times. At Austin, Marc Marquez is blazing a trail at Austin which nobody else can follow.

Behind Marquez, the battle is tight. Though Marquez has a second on the rest of the field, another second separates 2nd from 11th. Andrea Dovizioso put on a late charge to grab second, the Italian pleased with how the Ducati has improved since last year. The bike is stronger in braking and corner entry, meaning Dovizioso can brake later and turn in faster than he has before. Actually getting through the corners – especially the vicious and treacherous section from Turn 3 all the way down to Turn 10 – was hard, the Desmosedici still having understeer, but Ducati is already starting from a stronger position than last year.

At Yamaha, Valentino Rossi is happier than he was last year. Rossi is more confident with the bike, and happier with the set up. He can brake later and turn in, two things where he suffered last year. It was tougher in the afternoon, rising temperatures making the bike more difficult to handle. Still, Rossi was on the pace with the other Hondas, not over a second back like he was in 2013. The Italian needs to work on the hard tire to see if that will work in the race, but so far, Rossi looks like he is carrying the form he found at Qatar into Austin.

Jorge Lorenzo is a much, much unhappier man in Texas, his dark mood from Qatar following the double world champion across the Atlantic to Austin. The problem can hardly be the tires – the medium tire at Austin is the 2013 version, rather than the 2014 tire which Bridgestone have brought to the early races. Still, after saying he did not feel safe in the morning, some electronics improvements – a return to the 2013 electronics, a step his team tested at Sepang with success also – meant he was much closer to the front in the afternoon. Lorenzo was reasonably competitive, but only in terms of the battle for second. Marc Marquez, clearly the man to beat if Lorenzo still has any pretensions at the title, is out of reach for the Yamaha man.

Cal Crutchlow's debut at Ducati has been far from successful, through no real fault of his own. At Qatar, a failing transponder meant the bike was extremely hard to ride. Electrical gremlins continued to plague the Englishman at Austin. The bike just completely cut out along the front straight, a system failing, forcing him to push the bike the wrong way down the pit lane to return to the box. The system which failed was not a Ducati part, but part of an external system, also used on helicopters, Crutchlow explained. The consequences if the same part had failed on a helicopter did not bear thinking about, he added.

The systems were all too complex, he said. Dovizioso's side of the garage were used to dealing with them, but Crutchlow's team were running into problems. The system that failed was linked in to two other systems, and although that meant there was a certain redundancy built into the system, it also created serious problems in getting it to work. These were issues that would take a little time to iron out, but if the systems could be simplified, that would be a bigger benefit for Ducati, Crutchlow said.

Tires were the main focus of many riders at Austin, with the Factory Option riders vacillating between the hard and medium options. So far, it looks like the Hondas will race the hard option, while the Yamahas will wait for the weather, the hard tire only really working for them when it was hot. The Yamaha riders were happy enough with the hard tire, though. As Bradley Smith pointed out, at least it was a genuine option at Austin. Previously, Smith said, the tires just sat there 'looking pretty, black and round.' The fact that the tire is usable is already a big step forward.

Tires are likely to be a much, much bigger deal in the future. 2014 is the last year of the contract with Bridgestone, and there are a few signs that the relationship is not set to continue. Though the idea of a spec supplier is set in stone for both Dorna and the teams, the conditions clearly need to be changed. When the contract comes up for renewal, the number of tires supplied and the choice of compounds and constructions will be at the heart of the debate. Though much of the focus of the media will be on contract negotiations between riders and factories, the biggest change to the championship could come from the tire supplier. So far, speculation is all we have, but watch this space, and watch it carefully.

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This guy is really something. I mean he showed last year how good he is and this year with that experience... I don't want to be in Pedrosa, Lorenzo or even Rossi's shoes right now..

I hope none of the Yamahas do the voodoo 2012 Spies season routine....., grenading engine failure* frame failure* Brake failure* Tire chunking failure*(success*?) etc.... What else at the time would make a sane Man sign on with the Ducati MotoGP Program?? #Jarvis voodoo? :P

Watching Marquez at Austin is like watching Stoner at Phillip Island. Even if he was the only rider on the grid on sunday, it would be a great race !

At turns 3,4,5, the left kink at turn 10, and of course the right handers 16,17,18 : it's simply unbelievable riding.

And by the way, someone should pay big bucks to have Spies as en expert commentator.

I've heard people, like Spies, saying MM still isn't as fast as Stoner was. Even at Philip Island I don't think Stoner had a second over the rest of the field did he? I don't remember ever seeing such a big gap in the premier class. It is incredible to watch him but I hope for the sake of the race that the others can close the gap before tomorrow.

Lorenzo at Mugello in 2012 had a second and more over the rest of the field. Stoner had more than a second over Rossi at Laguna in 2008 all weekend...until the race. I agree that mm93 is on another level at the moment, but it is not permanent. An injury, or a change in tires (to be less suited to Honda like they did in 2012) or a step fwd by Yamaha will be all that it takes to bring Lorenzo back into the fight.

But what I really want to see, is for JL to find someway of competing with mm without any of the above happening. Can he change his riding style enough, apply enough pressure to Yamaha to get the upgrades he needs and somehow win the psychological battle with Mm? At times in the past, champions have had to use a combination of all three to beat a faster rival. Rossi over Stoner in 2008 springs to mind as the most recent example. This is what i want to see from JL this year. I'm not especially fond of JL. I like mm more, in personality and racing style. But it would make for a fantastic battle.

To carry the gap of 1 sec straight through the weekend and if does so in every session is not normal. MM knows better than to finish a race ahead 30 sec. He'll give us a show and a little back and forth but then break knock it off by pulling away on lap before last.

And looking back at Mugello 2012. The gap of 1 sec was between Lorenzo and Rossi and went back 9 or 10 bikes throughout all the sessions all weekend. And pedrosa beat lorenzo to poll by over a tenth..

There were definitely times Stoner had a second or so on the field in practice, and he managed it on the Ducati too. Thinking further back Rossi and Doohan dominated some sessions in a similar way. What is rare is for that gap to be maintained in race.. I doubt Marc is going to gap the field by 30 odd seconds in that race. Hope not anyway!

Just like a once-great rider they seem to have lost their grip on things.
Michelin do good tyres and it would be nice to see them back in the top series.
Perhaps we need a 'tyre aggregator', rather than a single supplier, to bring some Dunlop and Pirelli material in too, but keep the specials at bay.
Something for Edwards in retirement?
It would be interesting to know if those two, or other emerging manufacturers, would be interested, as Michelin seem to prefer some competition in the mix.
More suppliers could mean more sponsorship for teams and riders too.

The control tire concept is to blame. What motogp needs is a true "spec tire " philosophy. One where the teams can chose from an array of unchanging tire compounds and construction options provided by a single manufacture.

What motogp has now is a system where they tell you not only what tires you will run, which can and does change every race, but they also tell you how you must run it with the rules now requiring usage guidance for staying within parameters like temperature and pressure. ..

Article first line borrowed from The Sound of Music :) but all Jorge is hearing is dischord from his machine... It is dissapointing to see such a great champ as Jorge so out of sorts with his machine as in the current field he is the only one I feel that can match Marc this year. I mean his spreadeagle jump from the top step is seriously daggy along with the Mamba/Cobra (or whatever it is) but I'm already missing it. Yeah i know, only one race.... but if Yamaha/the M1 and Jorge's love affair continues to sour then the HRC offer will look better and better to him come musical chair time later this year.

In order to battle Marc, a rider will need the same machinery/team and equal or more raw talent/skill/lack of fear!? If Casey Stoner kept riding the last couple of seasons... that would be a great battle, if Stoner doesn't cry about being beaten gladiator-style by Marquez. It would take too much time for Stoner to get back up to speed to battle Marc. Stoner has thought about coming back to MotoGP several times, don't even think he hasn't. But Marquez isn't going to wait for anybody to take his crown! Lorenzo and Marquez on the same Repsol-team? Very interesting? Marquez, Lorenzo, and Stoner... 3-rider Repsol-Team??? Even more interesting!!! As wonderful as all this 'dreaming' sounds... ALEX MARQUEZ may be the chosen one to take his own brother's scalp in MotoGP! At least Alex would keep the crown in the family.

Amazing rider. I do see a similarity between him and Stoner. Whether he is outright better than Stoner I do not know. He does seem slightly less effected by people trying to get to him mentally. Lorenzo did all he could do to shake him up last year, and had minimal effect in MM's rookie year. Winning the title has not made him any less confident.

However, I have full confidence that Lorenzo will be back to the top and mercilessly trying to win the championship as soon as they find something to make the bike work better for him. Last race he was able to get back on pace right before the race, only suffering because of his own miscalculation into a corner. Should make for a good battle in the championship. Whoever wins out of those two I predict will have EARNED it. Because neither one will give in to losing.

greatest opponent will be himself....He had two issues to overcome from last year. One is not plowing into the back of a braking rider in front of him,something he narrowly avoided doing on far too many occasions. This is not a problem however, when everyone is behind you.Two is staying healthy despite hitting the ground hard and often. JL and DP could not do it last year and it cost them dearly...MM did and he is WC. Talent and speed won his title. Brains,maturity and patience will be needed to have a repeat and full career....