2014 Misano MotoGP Friday Round Up: Wet Weather, A Terrible Surface, And A Raft Of Rider Announcements

For anyone on a budget, Misano is one of the cheaper MotoGP rounds to attend. Ticket prices aside, the area has a large amount of tourist accommodation, and the race takes place right at the tail end of the tourist season, when hotel prices are starting to drop. Buses run to and from the circuit from Riccione, making transport to and the track affordable. Misano is a great circuit to go to if you are trying to keep costs to a minimum.

Misano may be a cheap weekend for fans, but it certainly wasn't cheap for the teams in all three classes in MotoGP. The rain-drenched conditions on Friday saw riders crashing left, right, and center, in Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP. They racked up a grand total of 62 crashes in all three classes, in just a single day. Given that crash damage on Grand Prix machinery tends to start at a minimum of around a thousand euros, going up arithmetically with the severity of the crash and the class the bike is racing in, a conservative estimate of the grand total for repairs on the first day of practice would be enough to pay for a ride in Moto3. Or possibly even on a MotoGP Open class bike.

The cause of those 62 crashes? The water certainly didn't help. Rain fell through the night and all day, leaving the track soaked and standing water on some part of the track. But it wasn't just the water, the surface of the track itself was very poor, and rubber left on the track made braking on the racing line a treacherous affair, riders in all three classes going down as the front locked up. The fact that Bridgestone had started the MotoGP riders off on the harder of the two wet tire options didn't help either. It was an understandable choice: in previous years, when riders have used the softer wet tire, they have ended up being destroyed at Misano. But on a track with standing water to cool the wet tires, tire temperatures were never raised enough for the soft tires to start to show any significant wear. The harder front tire never really reached the temperature at which it started to offer any real grip.

The conditions caused Bridgestone some logistical problems. Based on previous experience with wear, the Japanese tire manufacturer had brought 2 soft and 8 medium rain tires. The severity of the rain caused a drastic rethink, and riders were provided with a lot more of the soft rain tires, giving them sufficient to use in case it rains during the race. It was the right response to a difficult situation, but it highlights the perils of restricting tire numbers. Weather conditions can always catch you out.

The real problem, though, was the condition of the track. Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa firmly blamed the state of the asphalt for the lack of grip, Rossi having paid the price during the morning session. Bradley Smith concurred, having crashed in both the morning and afternoon, saying the asphalt felt almost polished. Tires were skating over the top of the track, rather than digging in and providing grip. Smith told us that he expected the track condition to be raised during the rider's safety commission. The track hasn't been resurfaced since MotoGP returned to the Misano circuit in 2007. It is likely that a new surface will be one of the conditions placed on the track before the race next year.

Making the problem worse was the amount of rubber laid down in certain corners. It was clearly visible in some places, the best tactic being to try to avoid it altogether. Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow all said that they had to adjust their lines to avoid the rubber. Get onto the ideal racing line, and grip would disappear, braking turning into a lethal gamble. Get off the racing line, and you would be off the ideal line for the corner, but you could at least apply the brakes with more confidence that the front wasn't about to be wiped out from under you.

Confidence was something which Jorge Lorenzo was still lacking in. The Movistar Yamaha rider needed a long time to get up to speed, but even after two sessions, he was still over a second off the pace of the Repsol Hondas. Lorenzo denied that it was fear of the rain and memories of his massive 2013 crash at Assen which was slowing him, but admitted to be extra careful. The lack of pace was part due to his caution, and in part due to the bike not giving him the confidence he needed. He needed more rear grip on corner entry if he was to be fast, he said.

It is a problem common to all Yamahas. The worse the grip, the more the Yamahas suffer. The whole ethos of the Yamaha is based around corner speed, which means carrying as much speed into the corner as possible, then carrying it through the corner and back out onto the straight. Corner speed demands grip, however, as the tire has to hold up when the bike is thrown into the corner. Grip demands temperature in the tires, the rubber needing to be as close as possible to its ideal operating temperature to form the chemical bonds with the asphalt which provides mechanical grip.

A soaking wet Misano was the worst of all possible worlds for the Yamaha riders. With no temperature in the tires, they would not provide the grip needed to carry corner speed. Without corner speed, it was impossible to load the tires to generate heat and create grip. Smith illustrated the problem by recounting that he could hear both the Ducati and the Honda catching him on braking and corner entry, though he was then able to hold his own on corner exit and acceleration.

The Ducati, above all, was a strong package in the wet. At the track's wettest, all four Ducatis were in the top 8, with Yonny Hernandez topping the timesheets both in the morning and in the early part of the afternoon. By the end of FP2, it was Andrea Dovizioso who had taken a commanding lead, the Italian feeling very at home in the wet.

Of course, all this will be meaningless by tomorrow. The weather forecast is for the rest of the weekend to be dry, with only a small chance of light rain on Saturday, followed by a dry and sunny Sunday. Friday was not wasted – Valentino Rossi, for example, had a chance to test a brand new wet set up, though he discovered that it did not work anywhere near as well as the standard set up. But the lessons learned on Friday will have no relevance once the sun comes out. A new weekend starts on Saturday, and a dry track.

There were plenty of developments off the track, some so fast moving, they look set to carry their momentum throughout the weekend and into the following days. Two expected announcements were forthcoming, Aprilia announcing they were partnering with Gresini to launch their return to MotoGP. Riders are expected to be Marco Melandri and Alvaro Bautista, though Melandri is far from certain. The Italian only wants to return to MotoGP on a competitive bike, and the 2015 Aprilia will certainly not be that. If there is any kind of involvement by Aprilia in World Superbikes for next year, then Melandri is likely to choose to stay there. That would open up a second spot at Aprilia, though who might fill that is hard to say. Scott Redding is at the top of Aprilia's shopping list, but Redding is wary of taking a step back on his career path. With Gresini technically in breach of their contract with the British rider – his contract stipulates that he will be on a Honda RC213V, which Gresini cannot supply – Redding has options outside of Gresini, and staying with the Aprilia could create several complications. Redding is also tipped for a spot at Pramac Ducati with factory backing, while Yamaha would like to see Redding in the Forward Yamaha team. If Honda want to keep Redding, they may have to help the Marc VDS Racing team make the step to MotoGP, by supplying some kind of financial support. If they don't, they could find themselves racing against Redding, and given the speed he has shown this year on a woefully underpowered bike, that is not a prospect which holds much appeal for HRC.

As for the Marc VDS Racing team, they are still short of the target budget for the first year if they move up to MotoGP. That does not mean that they will not make the jump, but it does make the move a risk. The team was expecting to sign a title sponsor for the project on Friday evening, though that would fall through if the team doesn't make the jump. They will have to make a decision soon, though it could yet still take a few days.

Other announcements were also made, though there are still a few to come. Avintia announced that they would be fielding Ducatis from 2015 onward, with a chance that Hector Barbera could be on the bike from the next race at Aragon. All that will depend on the results of a test at Mugello in the week before the Aragon round of MotoGP.

A few slots were settled in Moto2 as well. Alex Rins was confirmed with the Pons team, taking the place of the departing Maverick Viñales, who is off to join Suzuki in MotoGP. Rins' deal with Pons makes a move by Miller to LCR Honda a near inevitability, that deal expected to be announced this weekend.

Another Moto2 situation was settled on Friday, with the line up of the Swiss National Team being announced. Dominique Aegerter, Robin Mulhauser and Tom Luthi will be the riders, with Luthi racing under a separate banner, but inside the same team. All three will be switching from Suter to Kalex for 2015, despite the success of both Aegerter and Luthi on the Suter chassis.

The Swiss riders are not the only ones to abandon Suter. Everyone on the Swiss chassis is looking to abandon Suter at the end of this year, with a view to switching to Kalex. The German chassis builder looks likely to be supplying 26 riders with Moto2 chassis next season, almost double their current quota of 14. They will handle the expansion by splitting their customers into new teams and old teams. Existing teams will get an uprated bike for the 2015 season, new customers will have to make do with the 2014 bike. Given that the 2014 Kalex is the machine currently dominating the racing, that should not be a massive issue for the teams.

There is a danger here for Kalex. The German chassis builder has built a reputation for creating competitive chassis by not overstretching themselves, and promising more than they can deliver. They will have some spare capacity after KTM removed the option of a Kalex frame for their Moto3 machines, but even so, they will have a lot to do. The decision to supply the newcomers with old frames needs to be seen in that light.

Saturday is a new day for the teams and riders in all three classes at Misano, in many different respects. Dry weather will shake up the order on the track, while new announcements could provide yet more clarity on who goes where for 2015. It promises to be a busy and interesting day, just like Friday.

Total votes: 54
Total votes: 25

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Comments

I would love to know more about the likely disappearance of Suter from Moto2. The reason, ostensibly, is that the Kalex is dominating and has for some years now but for Suter to not be fighting back seems surprising as they have been in GPs for many years.

With Moriwaki all but disappeared the class seems to be heading to an entirely spec class with the Honda 600cc engine in a Kalex chassis, only Speed Up and Tech 3 competing and then with few entrants. Surely neither the intent of the class nor desirable. With essentially one chassis manufacturer and the spec engine, ecu and tyres, there will be little to offer if and when the competitive interest wanes, as this season has showed.

Is there any talk of direction for the future for Moto2? I know Honda mooted the idea of 500cc twins, which makes a certain type of logic in the overall system (250cc single cyliner x1 for moto3, x2 for Moto2 and x4 for MotoGP. Not unlike the two stroke progression!) As the cheapest class currently, and since inception a competitive class - until this year, I suspect there is little appetite among teams, at least and given the yearly over subscription for entries, probably none for organizers.

Total votes: 43

I've got it on good authority that Aprilia have romanced Colin Edwards into riding for them for 2015.

He's got it in writing that there will not be a repeat of the Cube 'fireball' incident.

Bautista did not bother to get the same assurances in writing, as he'll likely be far away from the bike most of the time, so 'fireball' is less of a concern to him.

Total votes: 61

>>Is there any talk of direction for the future for Moto2?

I've seen talk of opening up the engine spec and letting other brands once this engine management contract is up but nothing firm. Policing engine limitations without sealed and randomized engine selection is tough. If they ever open it up to other brands I don't think they will open it to anything. Back before the Honda engine move was official I was told one potential option was mandating unmodified high-pressure die cast crankcases which would essentially require a production base so maybe they will switch to something like that. I think my best hope for fame and fortune in the paddock is KRAVE including a robust Moto3 class in the US and I get a few Honda or KTM engines.

If Miller does well for whatever bike he ends up on that is a signal that change is needed drastically. What next up and coming top rider will want to slog through Moto2 when the path around it has just been made? Funnily enough I always thought that Honda's proddie racer was a oversize version of what a 250GP replacement really should be.

>>I know Honda mooted the idea of 500cc twins, which makes a certain type of logic in the overall system

I think a lot of mfgrs and teams didn't like the idea of the extra expense. Mike Webb told me that the teams were 100% for the spec engine because of cost reasons. Moto3 is the same bore but a lot of new parts anyway and downgraded ones because the mfgrs are not going to let their secrets out in the lesser classes. In the end Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Aprilia all chose not make Moto3 engines. KTM did yet don't participate in the big class.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 47

I thought you had been abducted by aliens or the like....

Total votes: 43

Chris is spot on. Talk to the teams who race in both Moto2 and Moto3, and they will tell you that Moto3 is more expensive, despite being nominally cost-limited. Factories find ways of extracting money for their bikes.

All of the teams love the spec Moto2 engine, as it takes one variable out of the equation. With 26 Kalex frames on the grid next year, that's another variable. The fewer differences between the teams, the more they believe they can make the difference with set up and riders. It also prevents a spending war between the teams (or at least, that's what they think, in reality, the rich teams find where they can spend the money to make the difference). 

If a proposal came up to replace the spec engine, I believe IRTA would oppose it. So sadly, we're stuck with the rather dull sound of the inline four.

Total votes: 35

Just had a brief chat with Mike Webb. Asked about Moto2 engines. He confirmed that teams want to keep the spec engine, and they will race the current engine for as long as it is available. That's for a few more years yet.

Total votes: 42

Although I currently ride - and love - a supersport bike, the class makes little sense. The cost to make a four cylinder engine of any capacity must be largely the same regardless of capacity. Moreover no one other than race teams are buying 600cc supersport machines. The class needs to evolve. Somehow. If not Moto2, then World Supersport and, by extension, hopefully, domestic championships too.

Fully understand the preference teams have but they are not whom to follow for the future of a sport. As I suggested before, the biggest problem to my mind with a spec class is that when the class competition is low, it has nothing whatsoever to hold the interest.

This has been shown in Moto2 this season, I believe. MotoGP, for instance, for all many complained of the racing being uninteresting, still held much interest for the fans- politics, machinery etc... A spec class is great when it is close competition but deathly dull when not.

Some future needs to be discussed now so organizers don't wait for all interest to wane before they look to change the fundamentals.

Total votes: 50

>>The cost to make a four cylinder engine of any capacity must be largely the same regardless of capacity.

Developing any new engine is a costly endeavor. That's why they are not making a new engine, merely pulling 100 units per year off of a production line that is designed to make tens of thousands per year. The cost is minimal compared to any other approach. But that does not make it a good approach.

>>Fully understand the preference teams have but they are not whom to follow for the future of a sport.

I agree. Its called letting the inmates run the asylum.

>>Some future needs to be discussed now so organizers don't wait for all interest to wane before they look to change the fundamentals.

The problem is the organizers are interested in short term cash flow (rightly or wrongly) and will do anything for that.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 53

Do the riders have the same complaint in the dry or is this exclusive to the wet?

Possible edit...
New teams will get an uprated bike for the 2015 season, new customers will have to make do with the 2014 bike.

Should be Old teams, right?

Total votes: 50

If Marc VDS was also weighing a Ducati option and if the Avintia announcement changes anything? They're almost all in on a GP ride a year earlier than planned, they have to be looking at all the options, no?
Spies flew under the "Ignite" Ducati (I always wondered what kind of tax write-off/launder that was) have Marc VDS pull an Aprilia and come into an established team. One Pramac and one MVDS, same garage. The Pramac squad could probably perform even better and more cost effective and now Ducati have Avintia to run all the spec responsibilities. But, really it's all dependent on Redding at the end of the day. MVDS won't go without him right?

And what of Honda? They gave a long time partner/team a deadline and it passed. Now no one can afford their bike! The unicorn, the more or less factory honda up for grabs and all we hear are teams beg borrow and cheating to get the funds... and they MIGHT be CLOSE to affording just one.

Obviously it's not that simple
Just spit balling

Total votes: 51

I could be wrong but I somehow seem to remember that 2015 is the last year for Moto2 with spec Honda engines and custom chassis. I hope that Dorna is thinking about replacing things in Moto2 with something more authentic with more actual bike makers competing in the category. I have had enough of this world chassis championship even if it produces such close racing that riders can swap bikes during overtaking!!! That stuff is better in stunt biking or in a circus. Some meaningful changes Dorna please.

Total votes: 41

Moto2 is set to run as it is for a few more years. This is what Mike Webb told David Emmett? Teams will want to run this category as it is since it is economical for them to do so. So Dorna just gives in to what the teams want. And if out of 32 entries Kalex is going to have 26 bikes built on their chassis, one may as well mandate that also the spec chassis. What I cannot make sense of is that this is a world championship and this is how it runs. Going by this logic let Honda supply all the teams with Moto3 engines and FTR all the chassis. I am told that Honda have a good relationship with them. MotoGP I think should run one year with all Honda customer machines without pneumatic valves, seamless gearbox, no slipper clutch. Let the engines come from the CBR 1000RR and the chassis can be given to Suter. Then the championship can call itself World Honda MotoGP championship. Dorna, what are you doing? To make the racing inexpensive you might as well run club races, there is more variety there and racing is usually close. In India, amazingly enough Honda runs a one make championship as does Yamaha. When it was suggested that they race together in one category they refused. Is this where MotoGP is headed?

Total votes: 45