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.
Though testing for the MotoGP class has finished, motorcycle racers in other series still have plenty of work ahead of them. Both the World Superbike series and the Grand Prix support classes have been hard at work, ahead of a busy schedule of testing. The Ducati and Kawasaki World Superbike teams have been testing at the Motorland Aragon circuit, while Moto2 and Moto3 are back at Valencia.
At Aragon, Jonathan Rea made his long-awaited debut on the Kawasaki ZX-10R, alongside 2013 World Champion and fierce rival Tom Sykes. With the World Superbike teams adapting to the new regulations, the two Kawasakis were a little slower than the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies. The day started off soaking, with journalists and test riders doing media laps on the 2014 bikes of Tom Sykes and David Salom. Once the track dried out in the afternoon, Kawasaki also joined the action. At the end of the day, both Ducati riders clocked up unofficial times of 1'51.3, while Sykes posted a 1'52.2 and Rea a 1'52.7. As an interesting note, they are running the track in its MotoGP configuration, using the long, sweeping double left hander as the final corner, rather than the longer version used by WSBK when the series races there, featuring the hairpin and then right and left combination leading back on to the front straight. Giugliano's best time is three seconds slower than the best time set by Andrea Dovizioso on the first day of practice for the MotoGP race at the circuit.
After the Valencia tests, the Pramac team issued a press release looking back at how the team's two riders, Yonny Hernandez and Danilo Petrucci, fared in the test, and takes a look at what he expects of the two in 2015. The press release appears below:
Pramac Racing Team ready for Moto GP 2015 - Team Manager Francesco Guidotti's analysis
The Valencia week represents the natural division between motoGP 2014 and 2015 seasons. The Grand Prix assigning the world champion title for the three classes passes the baton to the official tests on the base of which the teams will start to build the following season. And it is from the first 2015 tests that important data come to light with regards to structure, analysis and expectations. The Pramac Racing Team ones are run by the Team Manager Francesco Guidotti.
New Pramac Racing Team Structure
"The team's first rider will be Yonny Hernandez, in the Pramac Racing Team for the second year in a row, after becoming official with Ducati. He will manage the Ducati Desmosedici Gp 14.2 that in the last 5 races of the GP 2014 was driven by Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone. Danilo Pertucci will race with the Ducati Desmosedici Gp 14.1 used by Cal Crutchlow during season 2914. The mission of the Team is to create the conditions for a technical growth of our riders. We hope Yonny Hernandez and Danilo Petrucci will be following Andrea Iannone's steps as he has been protagonist of a huge growth over the past two years in the Pramac Racing".
The final round up of press releases from the teams and Bridgestone after the final day of testing at Valencia:
Bridgestone issued their customary post-race debrief after the final race of the year. In this press release, Shinji Aoki discusses how well the asymmetric front worked at Valencia:
Valencia MotoGP™ debrief with Shinji Aoki
Monday, November 10 2014
Bridgestone slick compounds available:
Front: Extra-soft & Soft (Symmetric) & Soft (Asymmetric). Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main), Hard (Alternative)
In the final MotoGP race of the 2014 season at Valencia, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez triumphed over Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa who finished in second and third place respectively, to claim a premier-class record of thirteen victories in one season.
The Valencia Grand Prix took place in cool and unsettled conditions, with a peak track temperature of just 21°C recorded and periods of light rain fall during the race. Marquez was able to set a new Valencia Circuit Record Lap (1'31.515) on the eighth lap of the race in the challenging conditions, as the 2014 World Champion ended the season with another dominant performance.
Q&A with Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorcycle Tyre Development Department
"This year's machine is not easy to ride," HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto said of the 2014 Honda RC213V. "More difficult than last year." Given the utter dominance of Marc Marquez in the first half of 2014, that seems hard to believe. It certainly left the journalists gathered for the special press conference convened by Honda to review the season befuddled. "But Honda bikes are always easy to ride!" declared one surprised reporter. "Our bike is very easy, I can ride it, but I don't get under two minutes," Nakamoto said. "But to find the last one tenth, two tenths is very difficult," he remarked.
A look at the timesheets from the test, or a chat with Marc Marquez or Dani Pedrosa about the 2015 Honda, and you understand the problem. On the last day of testing at Valencia, Marquez and Pedrosa finished first and second, but the satellite Hondas of Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding were a little way off the pace. Crutchlow was eight tenths slower than Marquez, while Redding was struggling 1.6 seconds behind Marquez. In the last race of the 2014 season, Stefan Bradl's fastest lap was just under a second off the fastest race lap, and Alvaro Bautista a fraction slower. The Honda is obviously fast, but it is not easy to go fast on. Too aggressive, too hard to master, a bike with a lot of potential, but extracting that potential takes insight, experience, and the willingness to push an aggressive bike to its limits. It really demands the kind of dirt track background of Casey Stoner or, well, Marc Marquez.
Marc Marquez has ended the final day of testing at Valencia on top of the timesheets, and leaves for the winter as the fastest overall. The Repsol Honda rider spent most of the day trying the 2015 prototype RC213V, but jumped back on the 2014 bike at the end of the day to set the fastest lap. He ended a tenth quicker than his Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, and two tenths quicker than Yamaha man Jorge Lorenzo.
Lorenzo led an entire gaggle of Yamahas, the Movistar Yamaha rider ending ahead of Monster Tech 3's Pol Espargaro, factory man Valentino Rossi, and Espargaro's satellite teammate Bradley Smith.
Danilo Petrucci caused a surprise, ending the day in 7th, ahead of the satellite Hondas and as fastest of the Pramac Ducatis. Petrucci was a tenth quicker than Cal Crutchlow, who spent the day looking for rear grip from the LCR Honda. Yonny Hernandez was 9th on the second Pramac Ducati, ending the day just ahead of Aleix Espargaro, who was exactly 1 second behind Marc Marquez. Suzuki's test debut was generally acclaimed a success, with both riders heaping praise on the handling of the bike.
Times from the last day of the Valencia test, at 3:30pm
Jorge Lorenzo tops the timesheets at 2pm on the final day of testing at Valencia, leading a very close group consisting of the two Repsol Hondas, the two Movistar Yamahas and the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha of Pol Espargaro. Both Honda and Yamaha are giving their 2015 bikes a run out, Nicky Hayden is out on the RC213V-RS, while the rest of the field are growing accustomed to their new mounts. Stefan Bradl and Loris Baz are testing Kayaba suspension, and evaluating them for use next season.
Testing started in silence, the track still far too wet from yesterday's rain. But the sun came out and the wind picked up, and riders hit the track shortly before twelve. Michele Pirro was the first rider out, the Ducati test rider testing conditions and helping to create a dry line. Conditions are now good, the track getting warmer as it goes on.
Times at 2pm:
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.
Hunting the Honda
As you read this, the wheels are probably still turning and the spanners still twirling at Valencia’s first off-season tests where the game is the same as it’s been for years: hunt the Honda.
We all know the RC213V is the best bike on the MotoGP grid right now (it’s won three riders’ titles and four constructors’ crowns over the last four years) and we all know why: because while Yamaha’s YZR-M1 carves the line of beauty – nicely arced all the way through the corner – the Honda is in and out, front tyre tucked on entry and a flurry of wheelspin (not too much, not too little) on the exit.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the rained-out second day of testing at Valencia: