MotoGP News Round Up: Brno vs Indy, Stoner at Ducati, Valencia Fallout, and Some Holiday Entertainment
With Christmas nearly upon us, and very little happening in the world of motorcycle racing, time for a round up of recent news. Here's what's been going on in recent weeks, as well as some recommended reading and listening for over the holiday period.
Brno vs Indy - On or Off?
The news that the Indianapolis round of MotoGP had been dropped came as a huge disappointment to a lot of US fans. Though few people were fans of the track layout – despite recent improvements which took the worst edges off the layout – the event as a whole was well liked, and, for a US MotoGP round, fairly well attended.
In recent weeks, rumors have been circulating that the event could make a return. Though just speculation at the moment, Indianapolis could be being groomed as a possible replacement for the Czech round of MotoGP at Brno. Given the troubled recent history of the Brno round, and the excellent organization behind the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there is a chance that behind the smoke, there is a fire powering the rumors.
With the news that the Brno round of MotoGP has been handed to a consortium consisting of local and regional governments, and that they are working to secure the long-term future of Brno, a major piece of the puzzle surrounding MotoGP's schedule for 2016 slotted into place. Brno, along with Indianapolis, had been the two biggest question marks still hanging over the calendar.
Most of the schedule fell into place once Formula One announced its calendar several weeks ago. The combination of an unusually late start (F1 kicks off in Melbourne on 4th April, two weeks later than last year) and an expansion of the schedule to 21 races has left few gaps for MotoGP to fit into. The upside to F1's late start is that MotoGP can get a head start on its four-wheeled counterpart, and kick the season off before F1 begins.
Preseason testing is slightly altered for 2016. Instead of two tests at Sepang, the MotoGP teams will head from Sepang to Phillip Island, and then on to Qatar, for a final test before the start of the season. Testing starts on the first three days of February, spending the 1st to the 3rd at Sepang, for the first start of the year. From there, the circus moves to Australia, for a three-day test at Phillip Island from 17th to the 19th February, before heading back across the equator to Qatar. MotoGP will test at the Losail circuit on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of March.
The entertainment value in MotoGP waxes and wanes through the years. One year, the races are all serial snoozers, each race settling into a procession a lap or two after the start. The next, everything is turned on its head, every race a tense battle to the line for a close finish. We are lucky indeed that this year falls very much into the latter category. There have been some classic races already, and tomorrow's race looks like being an absolute corker. The two title favorites and the most highly-tipped outsider are on the front row of the grid, two fast Ducatis and the best satellite rider at the moment are behind them on the second row, and one of the most exciting young talents in MotoGP will start from seventh, and is clearly competitive. Battle tomorrow is not just for victory, but for the momentum in the championship. And if the racing needed spicing up any more than it has been already, it might just rain.
The big surprise on the front row is Valentino Rossi. The Italian has been mediocre at best during qualifying, ending up all too often on the third row of the grid, and having to pull off miracles to fight his way to the front. It was clear that something was afoot this morning, when Rossi posted an exceptional time in FP3 to take him into second spot, and very safely into Q2. Clearly, he and his team had been working on something to find some speed on a single fast lap, in a bid to boost his qualifying position. It made qualifying an even more intriguing spectacle than usual, with the question at hand not just who would grab pole, but whether Rossi would be able to raise his game and put himself in a position to be competitive from the very first laps.
Indianapolis MotoGP™ debrief with Masao Azuma
Tuesday, August 11 2015
Bridgestone slick options: Front: Soft, Medium & Hard; Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre options: Soft (Main), Hard (Alternative)
Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez won last Sunday’s Indianapolis Grand Prix ahead of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP pair of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi who finished in second and third places respectively.
After track temperatures reached almost sixty degrees Celsius on Friday afternoon, conditions for the race were much cooler with a peak track temperature of 38°C recorded. During the race, Marquez set a new Indianapolis Circuit Record Lap of 1’32.625 on the twenty-third lap and also set a new overall race time record of (41'55.371), beating the old record by twelve seconds.
Q&A with Masao Azuma – Chief Engineer, Bridgestone Motorcycle Tyre Development Department
This is part two of our Indy round up, covering the excellent Moto2 race, and the intriguing Moto3 race. If you want to read about MotoGP, see part one.
The Moto2 race turned out to be a barnstormer, a welcome return for the class. Once, Moto2 was the best race of the weekend, but in the past couple of years, it has become processional, and turned into dead air between the visceral thrills of Moto3 and the tripwire tension of MotoGP. At Indy, Johann Zarco, Alex Rins, Franco Morbidelli, Dominique Aegerter and Tito Rabat battled all race long for supremacy. They were joined at the start of the race by a brace of Malaysians, Hafizh Syahrin running at the front while Azlan Shah fought a close battle behind. Sam Lowes held on in the first half of the race, but as he started to catch the leaders in the last few laps, he ended up crashing out.
In the end, it was Alex Rins who took victory, just rewards for the man who had been the best of the field all weekend. It was Rins' first victory in Moto2, and confirmation of his status as an exceptional young talent. MotoGP factories are showing a lot of interest in Rins, but having learned his lesson with Maverick Viñales, who left after just one year, Sito Pons has Rins tied down to a two-year deal. Will Rins be a comparable talent to Viñales? Many believe he will.
Rins wasn't the only young rider to make an impression. After crashing out trying to get on the podium at the Sachsenring, Franco Morbidelli finally succeeded at Indianapolis. The 21-year-old Italian made the transition from Superstock successfully, and is part of a growing revival of Italian motorcycle racing. He will hope that his first podium marks the step to being a permanent fixture at the front.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams, Bridgestone and the circuit after the race at Indianapolis:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races Indianapolis:
2015 Indianapolis Race Round Up, Part 1: Marquez Vs Lorenzo, Rossi Vs Pedrosa, And Why Ducati Is Going Backwards
Whether this is the last time MotoGP visits Indianapolis or not – the lack of an announcement on Sunday night suggests that this was the last time – the 2015 edition will certainly go down in history as memorable. Race day saw the biggest crowd since 2009 head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, though in a facility this vast, anything less than a quarter of a million fans is going to look empty, and all 67,000 were treated to some genuine racing spectacle. An upside down Moto3 race, where those bold enough to gamble on slicks were duly rewarded; an old-fashioned Moto2 dogfight, where a group of evenly matched riders brawled from start to finish; and a pair of exceptionally tense duels in MotoGP, with championship positions raising the stakes even further.
The race of the day? Hard to say. All three had their own appeal. Rain and a drying track made Moto3 a weird contest, with massive gaps between the leaders, and yet still strangely exciting, because of the potential effects on the championship. Moto2 harked back to the halcyon days of Márquez, Iannone, and Espargaro, and reminded us of why we used to love the class. And MotoGP was more about tension than straight up excitement, brains kept busy calculating the ramifications for the championship as the front four swapped positions.
Marc Marquez claimed victory Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after an epic, race-long battle with Jorge Lorenzo. It was Marquez’s fifth-straight MotoGP victory at Indy and his ninth-straight win on American soil. Jorge Lorenzo, who led all of the race but the final three laps, took second to close the championship gap to Valentino Rossi.
Rossi, who took third after his own race-long battle with Dani Pedrosa (4th), now leads the championship by nine points after ceding four points to Yamaha teammate Lorenzo. Rossi has finished on the podium every race this year. Pedrosa, who held third for much of the race, finished 15 seconds in front of fifth-place Andrea Iannone. Bradley Smith held tight on Iannone's tail but was unable to pass and so took sixth. Another nine seconds back were Pol Espargaro (7th) and Cal Crutchlow (8th) who partially made up for a lousy start that left the Briton in 13th early on.
Andrea Dovizioso, who ran wide on the race's first lap and dropped to last place, charged through the pack to reclaim ninth just in front of Danilo Petrucci (10th).
Rain was predicted mid-race for the circuit, so each team was ready with a rain-tire bike staged in pit lane when the contest began.
Alex Rins won his first-ever Moto2 race Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after seizing the lead with two laps to go. Johann Zarco grabbed the second spot following a fierce, race-long battle with Dominic Aegerter. And Franco Morbidelli seized the final podium spot -- his first -- after a late, hard pass on eventual fourth-place finisher Aegerter.
Reigning champion Tito Rabat settled for fifth after leading the race early. Thomas Luthi (6th) cane in right behind Rabat followed by Axel Pons (7th). Xavier Simeon crossed the line in a lonely eighth. Takaaki Nakagami (9th) and Alex Marquez rounded out the top 10.
The race, which started in mixed conditions, had dozens of lead changes as the drying racing line kept the lead group of six riders in close contact for much of the race. The battle between Zarco and Aegerter was particularly fierce with postiion swapping nearly every lap before Zarco forced his way through for good with three laps to go.
Livio Loi won his first-ever Grand Prix by gambling on dry tires in the damp-but-drying conditions Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Loi, one of a handful of riders to make the late switch and start the race at the back of the grid, won the contest by 38 seconds over second place rider John McPhee. Philipp Oetttl grabbed the final podium spot making it a clean sweep of riders who had never been on a world championship podium before.
All three riders made the switch to full slicks just before the race began. Championship leader Danny Kent -- who like many of the riders at the front, ran a handful of laps in the disintegrating wet tires before pitting for a tire switch -- finished the race out of the points in 21st place.
The race start was uncertain from the beginning when rain before the race forcing a wet-race declaration. Because it was declared a wet race, many riders stayed with wet tires. But a handful of riders, including the eventual race leader, made the late switch to dry tired and were forced to start at the back of the grid.
Loi grabbed the lead on the fourth lap and began opening a gap immediately.