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.
At Valencia last year, working for the Belgian magazine Motorrijder, I interviewed Valentino Rossi's crew chief Silvano Galbusera. The interview lived up to expectations, providing a fascinating insight into working with the nine-time world champion, and the pressures of replacing legendary crew chief Jeremy Burgess as Rossi's right-hand man. Yesterday, we published the first part of the interview, in which Galbusera spoke of his switch to MotoGP, and replacing Jerry Burgess. In the second part of the interview, Galbusera talks specifically about working with Valentino Rossi, and what makes him such a special rider.
Q: When Valentino announced he would be changing crew chiefs, he said he needed a bigger challenge. It seems to me that the biggest change was in his mind, rather than in the garage. Is that the right impression, did you make the difference or did Valentino make the difference?
SG: Really I don't know 100%. But from what I understood, Valentino never do something without having a clear plan of this. I think of course, he remembered back in 2010 working with me, when we worked for a very short time on the test, but I think he collect some information from [team manager] Maio Meregalli, from others. It was a bit, of course, but it was not completely that. It wasn't a complete gamble.
It could have been a complete disaster, but he already think, he already make a plan, to help also me to do a good job.
Q: What has impressed you most about working with Valentino? What makes him special?
At Valencia last year, working for the Belgian magazine Motorrijder, I interviewed Valentino Rossi's crew chief Silvano Galbusera. The interview lived up to expectations, providing a fascinating insight into working with the nine-time world champion, and the pressures of replacing legendary crew chief Jeremy Burgess as Rossi's right-hand man. Today, we publish the first part of the interview. The second part will be published on Thursday.
Q: It's been a big change for you coming here, perhaps the biggest challenge of your career. You have to replace Jeremy Burgess, and you have to work with Valentino Rossi. How has it been for you?
Silvano Galbusera: In the beginning, I worried about the situation, because Jeremy Burgess everybody knows is at the top. And also Valentino, Italian rider, great champion, so. The media, everyone, they want to know everything from Vale. So it's a bit critical, because I'm not experienced in MotoGP, coming from Superbike. First test it was so so, but after when we go to winter test, Malaysia, day by day we find a good opportunity to do well, with the team and everything. Because everyone is a lot experienced, is very high level, and they don't need to follow in every single moment, they know everything what they need to do, just to give them some paper and they follow everything. Then with Vale, we speak Italian, it's a little bit more easy to understand. And it was day by day more easy, more relaxed, to get the result at the category.
Q: So by the time you reached Qatar you were a good strong unit?
SG: Yes, but the problem is every weekend we learn a little bit. And now we have a good level, we are very close to Honda, we need to restart the season now, to understand the situation from Marquez and him. But unfortunately we take a time to understand, to make everything working well, and then we modify bike setting, geometry, position, so... It was a good job, but we would like to start again next season.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams at the end of the three-day test at Valencia:
Persistent drizzle and a wet track saw the final day of testing for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes at Valencia go to waste in much the same way that the second day did. Adding insult to injury, one bike dumped oil on the track between turns one and four, causing a long delay as the track was cleaned. By that time, most of the teams had already packed up and were heading south, off to Jerez where testing continues next week.
Though the times were fairly meaningless, Hafizh Syahrin and Jorge Martin were the quickest in Moto2 and Moto3 respectively. Syahrin has already shown his mettle in the rain, the Malaysian rider taking a podium as a wildcard rider in the soaking 2012 edition of his home Grand Prix. In Moto3, Martin boosted his confidence with a strong result, the 2014 Red Bull Rookies champ making his debut this year.
The wet weather means that nobody improved their times from Tuesday, meaning that Fabio Quartararo leaves Valencia as fastest Moto3 rider, while compatriot Johann Zarco was fastest in Moto2 over all three days.
The weather meant track time was severely limited on the second day of the combined Moto2 and Moto3 test at Valencia. With a wet track, most riders preferred not to risk injury by going out for laps, with little to be learned. Times for both classes were well off normal pace, so there was little point to riding. The enforced layoff was welcomed by Efren Vazquez, who fractured the navicular bone in his right foot in a crash yesterday. With no action on track, Vazquez could recover, and consider trying again on Thursday, the last day of the test.
In the Moto3 class the Mahindra riders did spend some time on track, with seven of the nine riders on the Indian bike taking to the circuit. Given the results from the first day, Mahindra clearly felt there was still much to be learned.
Conditions are not looking favorable for the last day of the test, due on Thursday, with more rain forecast. The Moto2 and Moto3 teams will hope for better conditions at Jerez next week.
The provisional MotoGP calendar for 2015, updated on 11th February, when Silverstone was confirmed as replacing Donington:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of testing at Valencia:
With testing for the premier class at Sepang finished, the Moto2 and Moto3 riders took to the track at Valencia on Tuesday. Just about the entire field in both classes rolled out of the pits for the first test of the season, and with the weather improving as the day went on, times soon began to drop. By the end of the day, the fastest men in both classes were lapping under the official lap records.
In the Moto2 class, it was Johann Zarco who was fastest, setting a blistering pace on the Kalex. The Frenchman ended the day with a run that saw him under the pole record on four consecutive laps. Sam Lowes ended the day in 2nd, after a strong first day of testing. Lowes professed himself much happier with the changes to the bike over the winter, the Speed Up now sporting an aluminum swingarm and WP suspension. Reigning Moto2 champion Tito Rabat was third fastest, just behind Lowes, and just under four tenths off the pace of Zarco.
Alex Rins made a very strong debut in the Moto2 class, ending the day in 6th, ahead of his teammate Luis Salom. Former teammate and reigning Moto3 world champion Alex Marquez had a much tougher day, leaving the first day with the 26th fastest time, some three seconds behind Zarco, and over two seconds behind Rins.
The Estrella Galicia Moto2 and Moto3 teams, as well as the Red Bull KTM team, issued the following press releases after private testing at Almeria, and ahead of official testing at Valencia:
Preseason begins for Repsol Moto3 riders
First test of the year for Fabio Quartararo, Jorge Navarro and Maria Herrera at Almeria. Next Tuesday they will return to action in Valencia.
The 2015 season has begun for the Repsol riders in the Moto3 World Championship. The reigning champion and runner-up from last season’s FIM CEV Repsol, Fabio Quartararo and Jorge Navarro, were back onboard their Honda NSF250RWs at Almeria for testing. They were joined by Maria Herrera, riding a Husqvarna, for two days at the southern Spanish circuit.
Strong winds and lower temperatures prevented the Repsol riders from completing more than a few laps yesterday, but today they had good conditions in which to begin their preparations in earnest. Quartararo, Navarro and Herrera put in 76, 75 and 105 laps, respectively, to end their first test of 2015 with a positive feeling.
The three Repsol riders in the lower cylinder category will be back on their bikes on Tuesday, February 10th, at the Circuit de Valencia, for three more days of testing.
Fabio Quartararo 76 laps 306 km
What is the difference between winning in Moto3 and finishing at the back? The glib answer is "about 50 seconds", but there must be an explanation for that gap. It is a question which many have pondered, and to which there are few easy answers. Clearly, there is a difference in equipment, level of ability, and the ability of the team to get the set up right. But is there anything we can identify directly?
The one factor which we might be able to see in the lap times is the effect of hard work. Motorcycle racing is (paradoxically) a physically demanding sport, and physical fitness is one factor which a rider has in their own hands. Training, and dedication to training, could be a factor which makes a difference. It may not be the difference between first and last, but it could well be the difference between finishing in the points and finishing at the very tail end of the field.
If fitness is a significant factor, then it should be visible in the lap times. As the race goes on, the less fit riders should get slower, while the fitter riders manage to maintain the same pace. That should be most clearly visible between the riders who finish at the front, and the riders who finish at the back. (For a fuller explanation of this hypothesis, see below.)
This is not an idea I came up with on my own. Motorcycle racers are obsessed with fitness and hard work, though some work harder than others. In various conversations with riders and team staff, especially in Moto2 and Moto3, the issue of fitness was one which cropped up surprisingly often. Managers and engineers would frequently criticize riders who they felt were not doing enough to work on their fitness. Clearly, they believe it is a factor.
To kick off the first year of their return to MotoGP, Suzuki have released a video documenting the latest steps on their way back to the premier class. The video offers a fascinating view into the process of getting ready for 2015: it shows testing going on in the wind tunnel and on the dyno, covers Randy De Puniet's wildcard appearance at Valencia, and then the first ride of the 2015 factory pairing of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales.
Lasting 7 minutes, it offers a few interesting glances of things fans do not often get to see, such as footage of the work going on in the wind tunnel, and the collaboration between test riders and engineers. Most interesting of all are the first reactions of Espargaro and Viñales once they get off the bike after riding it for the first time. As a MotoGP rookie, Viñales' first reaction is one of pure pleasure at riding a bike with so much power. For the more experienced Espargaro, it is not about what is right with the bike, but what is wrong, and where it needs improvement. It is a peek into the life of a professional motorcycle racer, and how they approach their sport.
2014 Valencia Moto2 And Moto3 Post-Season Test: Rabat Rules Moto2, Rins Impresses, Antonelli On Top Of Moto3
Tito Rabat continued his rule of the Moto2 class at Valencia by ending the final day of testing on top of the timesheets and under the pole record at the Spanish circuit. The newly-crowned 2014 champion spent all day working on set up of the 2015 Kalex machine he will be riding for the Marc VDS team next season. Rabat finished just ahead of Johann Zarco, the Frenchman adapting quickly to the Kalex frame in the new Ajo Motosport team. Jonas Folger was close behind, starting his second year with the AGR team.
Alex Rins once again won the battle of the rookies, this time by a clear margin. The HP Pons rider adapted quickly, posting an impressive eighth-fastest time, just two thirds of a second off the time of Rabat. Alex Marquez had a rougher time, crashing twice without any injury, other than to his confidence. The reigning Moto3 champion ended the day in twelfth, just over a second behind his Marc VDS teammate Rabat.