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.
Rossi needs 'stuff' to happen
Cue the Jaws theme tune, because Jorge Lorenzo is coming to get Valentino Rossi. The Spaniard took a nine-point chunk out of Rossi’s championship lead at Aragon, at which rate he will lead the championship at Phillip Island, with all to play for in the final two races at Sepang and Valencia.
Rossi always knew this moment was coming; indeed he’s been there before. Way back in June 2009 he likened Lorenzo and Casey Stoner to sharks, circling around him in the water, ready for the kill.
“They look at me with some blood flowing and they think, ‘Okay, now is the time’,” he said. “If I am not strong, they will eat me in one bite.”
Six and a bit seasons later he is in exactly the same position. So what will it take to repulse Lorenzo’s latest attack?
Things appear to be looking up for Forward Racing. After a very dark period when the future of the team was in danger, following the arrest of team owner Giovanni Cuzari, the team is moving on to a slightly more stable footing. Earlier this week, they announced that former Moto2 champion Toni Elias is to ride for the team for the last five races of the 2015 season. Elias will be replacing Claudio Corti, who has stood in for Stefan Bradl after the German departed for Aprilia.
Though the press release makes no mention of it, it seems likely that the signing of Elias will help strengthen the financial basis of the team. Speaking to MotoMatters.com and MCN at Misano, team boss Cuzari said that "95%" of the team's sponsors had returned after he had explained that the corruption charges against him were to be dropped. Cuzari also expressed optimism at being back in MotoGP for 2016. Though the team is too late to secure the use of Yamahas for next season, Cuzari was confident of obtaining alternative equipment, mentioning talks with both Ducati and Aprilia for the supply of bikes. All that depends on the view of Dorna, however. The fate of the team lies in the hands of senior Dorna management, who must make a decision on whether to allow Forward Racing to race in MotoGP again in 2016. A decision is expected before Aragon.
The FIM today released a provisional calendar for MotoGP in 2016, featuring much that was expected and a few surprises. The calendar will once again have 18 races, with Indianapolis dropped and Austria taking its place. The biggest change in the calendar is the moving of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which vacates its late August slot for the middle of July.
That move, and the scheduling of Austria and Brno back to back, will not be popular with the circuits. The British MotoGP round comes just three weeks after the F1 race at Silverstone, due to be held at the end of June. Silverstone will fear that having the two biggest events of the year in the space of a month will mean that they cannibalize attendance, with spectators choosing to attend either F1 or MotoGP. When there were two months between the two races, the chances of fans attending both were greater.
As for Brno and Austria, the Brno circuit feared that having Austria a week before their race would see German fans choosing to go to Austria rather than Brno, with an impact on attendance. So far, though, Dorna has prevailed in discussions.
Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi head into Silverstone tied on points, with Lorenzo only leading because he has more wins to his name this season than his teammate. With the race that close, who does the season favor? Who will emerge victorious at the end? It is far too early to make any firm predictions, but perhaps we can guess from looking at last year.
There are seven races left in 2015, and the seven left this season are the exact same races in the exact same order as the last seven of 2014. That parallel invites comparisons, and the drawing of conclusions, though such conclusions are tenuous at best. However, there are tracks which favor Rossi, and tracks which favor Lorenzo, and their performance there may yet be indicative of the final outcome.
First, the numbers. Both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo currently have 211 points after the first 11 races. With seven races left, there are a grand total of 175 points still up for grabs. Though neither rider is likely to run the board – they are too evenly matched for that – a look back at their performances last year can be instructive.
In the last seven races of 2014, Rossi won two, at Misano and Phillip Island, and Lorenzo won two, at Aragon and Motegi. Lorenzo took three second places, while Rossi ended in second just twice. Rossi ended in third two times, Lorenzo just a single time, and both riders scored a blank due to poor weather. Rossi crashed at Aragon on a damp track, while Lorenzo retired after a tire change at Valencia in half-wet, half-dry conditions.
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.
With just days to go until MotoGP hits the second half of the season, now is a good time to start asking the question who is in the hot seat for the 2015 MotoGP championship. Valentino Rossi leads the title chase by 13 points, but his lead is due more to his terrifying consistency than racking up win after win. Jorge Lorenzo had a seemingly invincible run from Jerez to Barcelona, but has also finished well off the podium. Andrea Iannone has been brilliantly consistent, but has not looked capable of winning, which is a prerequisite for a MotoGP title. Marc Márquez struggled in the first part of the season, but a new swing arm and a return to the 2014 chassis has taken the edge off the worst characteristics of the RC213V. Dani Pedrosa, meanwhile, missed too much of the first part of the season to be a factor.
Will Valentino Rossi pull off his his eighth MotoGP title, and his tenth title overall? Will Jorge Lorenzo become the first Spaniard to win three MotoGP titles? Or will Marc Márquez pull a rabbit out of the hat and take his third championship in a row? Let us run through the options and weigh the probabilities.
The provisional MotoGP calendar for 2015, updated on 11th February, when Silverstone was confirmed as replacing Donington:
Casey Stoner has made a temporary return to MotoGP, completing two days of testing for Honda at Motegi. Over the two days of testing, Stoner focused on the 2015 version of Honda's RC213V, the Australian comparing the settings used by Repsol Honda's current riders, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, to see how they work with the new bike. Stoner also worked on preparing the 2015 further ahead of its debut at the Valencia test after the final race of the season. Finally, he also spent some time on the development versions of Michelin's MotoGP tires, as the French manufacturer prepares to take over as spec tire supplier from 2016 onwards. As is their custom with all testing, Honda did not release any lap times.
Stoner volunteered to do the test as compensation for the tests he was scheduled to do in 2013. Those tests were largely rained off due to poor weather in Japan, and Stoner felt he still owed HRC some testing. With better weather conditions at Motegi for this test, the Australian was able to make good on his debt to Honda. According to MCN's Matt Birt, HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto is keen to retain Stoner as a test rider, but agreement is yet to be reached.
Bridgestone today issued their customary post-race press release, containing a debrief on the race just passed. This week, it is the turn of Shinji Aoki to explain the role which changing temperatures and hard braking played at Motegi:
Japanese MotoGP™ debrief with Shinji Aoki
Tuesday, October 14 2014
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium & Hard; Rear: Extra-soft, Soft & Medium (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main), Hard (Alternative)
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo secured his second win in a row at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix as Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez finished in second place to secure his second-straight MotoGP™ crown.
Conditions for the start of the Japanese Grand Prix race weekend were warm, but cool ambient temperatures and cloud cover drastically lowered track temperatures on Sunday, with a peak recording of just 27°C recorded during the race.
Q&A with Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorcycle Tyre Development Department
How did the much cooler temperatures on Sunday compared to the previous days effect tyre performance during the race?
The endless stream of press releases from Honda, Repsol and Dorna on Marc Marquez' 2014 MotoGP title continues. Today, the indefatigable Repsol Media Service issued a press release containing an interview with the newly-crowned champion:
"This title is to thank Honda for letting me bring all my people to the team"
Marc Marquez yesterday won his fourth World Championship ‒just reward for a season that he started brilliantly and in which he clinched the title with three rounds remaining.
Motegi, Japan, was the scene of a fourth World Championship title victory for Marc Marquez yesterday. The Repsol Honda team rider successfully defended his title in the MotoGP at the first available opportunity. Despite mistakes at the last two races, Marquez left his rivals with no chance of catching him and could celebrate in style with races in Australia, Malaysia and Valencia in hand.
Is winning a World Championship more difficult than taking 10 wins in a row?
Marc Marquez had come to Motegi to give Honda the world championship at their home circuit for the first time ever. The Movistar Yamaha team had come to Japan to score a win in front of their home fans, and factory bosses. In the end, the Battle of the Bosses can be declared a draw: Jorge Lorenzo was just about unstoppable on his way to victory, winning in front of Yamaha's top brass. And Marc Marquez nudged his way past Valentino Rossi to take second, finishing ahead of the two men who could prevent him from wrapping up the 2014 MotoGP title. Marquez brought Honda a championship at the circuit they own, in front of the company's CEO, Takanobu Ito. Both Lorenzo and Marquez came to Motegi with a job to do, and they both got the job done.
The win capped a weekend of near perfection at Motegi for Jorge Lorenzo. Qualifying had been the only minor bump on the road to victory, the Movistar Yamaha man forced to start from the second row. He made up for that with raw aggression off the line, sitting Marc Marquez up into the first corner, then picking of the men ahead of him until he sat on the tail of his teammate, Valentino Rossi. Rossi had capitalized on his front row start, leading off the line and into the first corner, shuffling pole sitter Andrea Dovizioso back to second, Lorenzo demoting the Ducati man to third the next corner.
Rossi pushed hard from the off, and Lorenzo was happy to sit quietly on his tail and follow. But once Marc Marquez had gathered his composure again, passed Andrea Iannone, and closed down Andrea Dovizioso, Lorenzo decided he could wait no longer. A hard but clean pass on Rossi at the end of the back straight put Lorenzo in the lead, and though Rossi thought about attacking straight back, he found himself off line and with Dovizioso ready to pounce behind him.
The Repsol Media Service issued the following press release, chronicling Marc Marquez' path to his 2014 MotoGP title:
Marc Marquez proclaimed 2014 MotoGP World Champion
Repsol Honda team rider takes second straight title in the premier class in Japan and, at 21 years of age, adds a fourth world title to his resumé.
Marc Marquez has been crowned King of MotoGP once again. The Repsol Honda rider retained his title at the Japanese Grand Prix, achieving a new milestone. The Spaniard becomes the youngest rider in history to win two consecutive MotoGP World Championships, adding the accolade to his titles in 125cc (2010) and Moto2 (2012).
2014 is going to be hard to forget for Marc Marquez. The Repsol Honda team rider began the series in unstoppable fashion, stringing together ten consecutive wins and equalling the record set by Mick Doohan in 1997 –also as a Repsol rider. This season, Marquez has won 11 races and taken 12 podiums and 11 pole positions. The champion has been able to manage his advantage with a maverick style, en route to clinching the title in Japan.
MotoGP series organizer Dorna issued the following press release, celebrating Marc Marquez' successful defense of his MotoGP title:
How magnificent Marquez successfully defended the MotoGP™ title in 2014
Repsol Honda’s brilliant young MotoGP™ World Champion Marc Marquez retained the premier class title in style this year – and this is the story of how he did so, sending the hashtag #MM93WorldChamp trending worldwide.
Last year Marquez became the youngest ever winner of the premier class World Championship, securing the crown by four points and winning it at the last race of the season in Valencia. This year a brilliant start to his title defence saw him notch up ten consecutive race wins in the opening ten races, leaving his rivals chasing his shadows.
A pre-season leg break which the rider, from Cervera, Spain, sustained whilst dirt track training close to his hometown, meant he missed the last tests before the new season commenced, but he showed no signs of weakness once the real action got underway in Qatar. Just weeks after his training accident Marquez showed he would be tough to beat this year as he won from pole at the Losail International Circuit following a great battle in the desert with Valentino Rossi.
The Repsol Media Service put together the following video and press release celebrating Marc Marquez wrapping up his fourth world championship, and second title in MotoGP:
The career of a four-time World Champion
A look back, with pictures and audio, at Marc Marquez’ evolution in the World Championship, from his debut in 2008 to the 2014 season.
It has been 7 seasons since a very young Marc Marquez, aged just 15, took his first steps in the World Championship in 2008 with the backing of Repsol. It has been enough time for the Repsol Honda rider to amaze with numerous milestones, accumulating 4 World Championships ‒1 in 125cc (2010), 1 in Moto2 (2012) and 2 in MotoGP (2013 and 2014)‒ in the last 5 years and achieving unprecedented accolades for someone so young.
The Repsol Honda team issued the following press release containing all of Marc Marquez' records secured in 2014, plus a biograph of the 2014 world champion:
2014 World Champion – Marc Marquez
It’s been another record breaking season for Repsol Honda sensation, Marc Marquez. The young Spaniard has now won his first two MotoGP campaigns with back-to-back Championships and is rewriting the history books on his way.
Already having broken many milestones in his maiden year in 2013, this season has been no different. Here’s a look back at the records he’s accomplished this season to date.
2014 Highlights so far: