MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Open season on the factory teams
No doubt who was the star of last week’s Sepang tests, even if Marc Márquez did stun his rivals with a ridiculously fast race simulation on the final day.
Márquez’s ominous speed on Honda’s latest RC213V wasn’t entirely unexpected, whereas the pace of Aleix Espargaró on his Open-spec Yamaha M1 had a few jaws dropping up and down pitlane. The young Spaniard’s best lap was less than half a second slower than Márquez and within a couple of tenths of factory Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.
Espargaró’s speed suggests that the best Open-class bikes will have a chance of fighting for podiums this year, especially at thirstier tracks where their 20 per cent extra fuel may give them a real advantage over factory bikes. It also confirms that Dorna’s control software – mandatory on Open bikes – is working pretty damn well.
Before Sepang the Open bikes already had the 2014 rules written largely in their favour – all part of Dorna’s sensible plan to narrow the gap between factory teams and privateers to create bigger battles near the front of the pack. As well as four more litres of fuel, they also get to thrash their way through more than twice as many engines as do the factory machines and they can go testing whenever they like, unlike factory riders.
So you’d think that the Open bikes (the Openers?) already had enough going for them. Not quite, in Dorna’s opinion. After the tests Bridgestone confirmed that the Openers will be blessed with softer-spec rear slicks for 2014, as were the slower CRT machines last season. Softer, more grippy rubber was a major part of Espargaró’s ability to embarrass the factory Ducatis during 2013 aboard his Aprilia CRT bike and it may help him do the same to a few of the aliens this year.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.