March 26th, 2015
Danny Kent has drawn first blood of the 2015 season, topping the first session of free practice for the Moto3 class. Kent used a handy slipstream from Romano Fenati to just pip Miguel Oliveira at the very end of the session.
Oliveira ended the session in 2nd, after having led the way for most of it, Kent moving from six tenths behind Oliveira to a tenth of a second ahead of the Red Bull KTM rider. Niccolo Antonelli moved up to set the 3rd fastest time, getting ahead of Isaac Viñales. After a slow start, Brad Binder ended the session in 5th, while Jorge Navarro posted an impressive 6th fastest time on his first visit to the track.
There were impressive starts for two of the Moto3 rookies in FP1. Red Bull Rookie champion Jorge Martin ended the session in 8th, 1.5 seconds behind Kent, while Fabio Quartararo finished in 14th spot, 1.8 seconds slower than the leader Kent.
The prospect of a new MotoGP season always leaves fans giddy with anticipation. Their appetites keenly whetted by winter testing, and speculation over the times set at those tests, they boldly predict that this season is going to be the best MotoGP season ever. Though the racing is often good, all too often, it never quite lives up to the preseason hype.
There is every reason to believe that this year, it will be different. The bikes, the riders, the teams, the motivation, it all points to 2015 being an exceptionally exciting season in MotoGP. At the last day of winter testing at Qatar just over a week ago, less than a second covered the top fourteen riders, and two seconds covered all but four of the MotoGP field. A similar pattern emerged at Sepang: with the exception of the occasional hot lap by Marc Márquez, there were ten or more riders within a second of each other. Things haven't been this close for a while.
The Fantastic Four
It has been a very long time – Estoril in 2006, to be precise – since a satellite rider has won a race in MotoGP. That is unlikely to change in 2015. The reasons for this are manifold, but perhaps the most important is the emergence of a group of exceptionally talented riders pushing each other on to greater heights. The arrival of Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo posed a real threat to Valentino Rossi, and forced him to up his game to stay with them, and to beat them. When Stoner retired at the end of 2012, Marc Márquez took his place, keeping the squad of so-called Aliens at full strength.
This group – call them the Aliens, the Fantastic Four, the Factory Four, whatever moniker takes your fancy – will be hard to beat again in 2015. Márquez, Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa have the best bikes on the grid, in the best teams, with the best crew chiefs. They are the most talented, and the most dedicated. They train hardest, and have the best support in terms of physical training and mental preparation. They all know that victory is won by the narrowest of margins, and attention to detail must be complete. These four are indeed fearsome, and favorites to boot.
Press releases from the series organizer and the MotoGP teams previewing this weekend's season opener at Qatar:
Press releases from the series organizers and from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's season opener at Qatar:
It has been a tough day for sponsorship news in the MotoGP paddock. After news earlier of LCR Honda's title sponsor CWM being subject of a fraud investigation, the Aspar Honda team have lost their title sponsor, Drive M7. The Malaysian energy drink firm have withdrawn their sponsorship of the team on the day before the 2015 season was due to start.
According to German language publication Speedweek, the Drive M7 management told team owner Jorge Martinez about the decision on Tuesday night. The decision was a surprise, as it had been expected that the deal would continue in 2015, with both Nicky Hayden and Eugene Laverty riding in Drive M7 testing colors during preseason testing.
Ahead of this weekend's season opener, the Movistar Yamaha team issued the following press release, containing an interview with Jorge Lorenzo.
JORGE LORENZO INTERVIEW
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider
Doha (Qatar), 23rd March 2015
Q1: In a few days the 2015 World Championship will kick off. What do you expect from the start of this new season?
JL: “As always I hope to be able to try and fight for the title. Whether you win it or not in the end depends on many factors, but at least we have to go into the season with the intention of fighting for the title, as we have done all throughout my career in MotoGP. I think that, if the bike works well and I stay in good shape physically, I can do it. Let's see what happens...”
Q2: What have you learned from previously made mistakes, and from which mistakes did you learn the most?
LCR Honda's title sponsor, foreign exchange trading firm CWMFX, is the subject of a police investigation by the City of London police and Financial Conduct Authority, the UK body charged with regulating the financial services industry. Police raided the firm on 3rd March this year, arresting thirteen people for a range of fraud charges. Since last night, the CWMFX website has been offline, with only a contact form on the site.
The arrests come as part of a wider investigation into an offshore Ponzi scheme allegedly being run by Belvedere Management Limited. Research by independent financial advisors deVere Group, as well as the investigative financial services publisher OffshoreAlert revealed that $16 billion of investor funds was involved in the Belvedere scheme, which was based in Mauritius. Major investors such as hedge funds, life insurance, investment management and much more had started withdrawing their investments from the firm, bringing Belvedere to the brink of bankruptcy. CWM is believed have $130 million of investor's fund committed to one of the Ponzi schemes allegedly operated by Belvedere, and run out of the Cayman Islands. It is this involvement which has caused the City of London police to make the arrests and charge CWM staff with various fraud offences.
Estrella Galicia Press Release: Fabio Quartararo - "The main obstacle will be learning the new tracks and adapting quickly to them"
Fabio Quartararo is Moto3's hottest property. The Estrella Galicia 0,0 team issued the following press release, containing an interview with the French youngster, ahead of his debut in the Grand Prix paddock this weekend:
Interview with Fabio Quartararo
"The main obstacle will be learning the new tracks and adapting quickly to them”
Fabio Quartaro will make his debut at Qatar aged 15, as the champion of the FIM CEV. The rookie has won two national titles in Spain, and comes into the campaign off the back of an excellent preseason.
You won the FIM CEV in 2013 and 2014, you tested a Grand Prix bike in preseason last year and in 2015 you debut in the World Championship. It has been a very quick process. What do you expect to encounter in the World Championship?
"Above all I hope to have a good pace and have some great battles. It is something that we saw in the 2014 World Championship, at races such as Mugello and Brno, which were very hard fought. That's something I missed last year, so now I can’t wait to fight with the World Championship riders."
Did you feel you had already outgrown the FIM CEV and it was time to make the leap to the World Championship?
Once upon a time, Grand Prix racing rules were fairly simple: bikes had to have two wheels, weigh 130kg, have a maximum capacity of 500cc and a maximum of four cylinders. The switch to four strokes in 2002 added a lot of complexity to the rules, and things have been getting slowly worse since then. MotoGP now has two different categories with three different rule sets covering a single class, depending on entry type and results in recent years. With Suzuki and Aprilia entering the series in 2015, and another rule change on the horizon for 2016, it's time to take a quick look at the rules for this season, and see what has changed since last year.
The basic formula for MotoGP is unchanged. A MotoGP bike is limited to a maximum of 4 cylinders, a maximum capacity of 1000cc, and a maximum bore of 81mm.
For 2015, the minimum weight has been reduced by 2kg to 158kg. That limit is likely to be reduced again for 2016. Bikes are weighed in race trim, including coolant, onboard cameras and electronics, but with an empty fuel tank.
Factory vs Open
As in 2014, MotoGP is divided into two categories: Factory Option and Open class. Factory Option is meant for motorcycle manufacturers, the Open class for private entries and smaller teams. However, just as in 2014, the threat of Ducati's defection to the Open class means that the concessions they were granted in 2014 stay in place, and will be extended to the new factories entering the class, Suzuki and Aprilia.
Press releases from the teams and the series organizer after Sunday's World Superbike races from Chang in Thailand:
At the starting grid for race two, Sylvain Guintoli was absent. This was due to a clutch problem that they raced to resolve. As the grid lined up after the warmup lap, Guintoli's Honda was fixed in time for him to join the grid in last position.
The first World Supersport race in Thailand was Film Wilairot's home round and it was clear, like with Kenan Sofuoglu in Turkey, that he was the man the packed grandstands really came to see race seventeen laps of the Chang International circuit.
The inaugural race in Thailand was held over 20 laps.