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The 2015 World Superbike Season So Far: Close Racing, Sheer Superiority And Some Genuine Surprises

Four rounds into the World Superbike season and the contours of the 2015 championship are starting to become clear. Some of the things we expected to happen have unfolded much as predicted, but there have also been a fair few surprises. Time to take a quick look at the state of World Superbikes so far.

New technical regulations have been put in place aimed at reducing cost and leveling the playing field somewhat. Their effect so far? Despite the protestations of the Kawasaki and Aprilia riders, all of whom have been complaining of a loss of horsepower, neither top speed nor overall lap times appear to have been affected much. Taking Tom Sykes as perhaps the best example, as he was on the Kawasaki ZX-10R both this year and last, his lap times were half a second slower at Phillip Island, half a second quicker at Assen, the only two tracks at which it is possible to compare. Chaz Davies on the Ducati Panigale was a second quicker at Assen, and eight tenths quicker in race one at Phillip Island, but in race two lapped just as fast in 2015 as he did in 2014. Overall, the Phillip Island track was a little slower in 2015, while conditions at Assen were definitely improved this year over last. The jury is still out on the new rules, but there are definite rumblings audible from the jury room.

Perhaps the biggest effect of the new rules is on the expectations of riders. The Kawasaki is among the most affected of the WSBK bikes by the new rules, with claims that the ZX-10R has between ten and twenty fewer horses than it had in 2014. That has had a bigger impact on Tom Sykes than on his new teammate, Jonathan Rea, Sykes struggling while Rea has come in and cleaned up. Sykes finds himself with a bike that is down on power to what he is used to, a development which is not good for a positive mindset. Rea has come off a bike which he knew to be incapable of winning a championship, and hopped onto one which has been proven capable of doing just that. It's easy to go fast when what you have is better than what you had, and you see opportunity looming.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Márquez vs Rossi: the best tight fight ever?

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.


Márquez vs Rossi: the best tight fight ever?

Valentino Rossi has been through them all. He’s the ancient prize fighter who has taken out Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and the rest. His premier-class duels go so far back into racing history – all the way back to 2000 – that they cross generations. The same time span of 16 years would’ve had John Surtees taking on Barry Sheene, Mike Hailwood comparing genius with Freddie Spencer, Kenny Roberts doing battle with his own son, Wayne Rainey having a go with Casey Stoner and Mick Doohan with Marc Márquez. Hard to believe, but do the maths; it’s true.

The first racer who caused Rossi a real problem was Stoner – finally here was someone who had the sheer talent to beat the old master. Now there’s Marc Márquez.

2015 Argentina MotoGP Post-Race Round Up: On Rossi Vs Marquez, And Why You Shouldn't Believe The Pundits

You should never believe professional pundits. We writers and reporters, forecasters and commentators like to opine on our specialist subject at every opportunity. The wealth of data at our fingertips, which we study avidly, fools us into thinking we know what we are talking about. So we – and I do mean all of us, not just the royal we – tell our audience all sorts of things. That Casey Stoner is about to return to racing with Ducati. That Valentino Rossi is set to join the Repsol Honda squad. That Casey Stoner is not about to retire, or that Dani Pedrosa will.

Your humble correspondent is no different. In 2013, during his first season back at Yamaha, I was quick to write Valentino Rossi off. At the age of 34, I pontificated, the keenest edge had gone from his reflexes, and he was at best the fourth best motorcycle racer in the world. He would never win another race again, unless he had a helping hand from conditions and circumstances, I confidently asserted. Rossi proved me wrong, along with the many others who wrote him off, at Misano last year. Now, after three races of the 2015 season, Rossi has two wins and a third, and leads the championship.

After the race at Argentina, the experts and pundits are all rubbing their hands with glee once again. Analyzing the coming together between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez, ascribing intention to one rider or another, confidently claiming that they can see inside the minds of the men involved. We are certain that Márquez was trying to intimidate Rossi when the Yamaha man came past. We are convinced that Rossi saw Márquez beside him, and deliberately took out his wheel. Or that Márquez made a rookie mistake, or that Rossi is now inside Márquez' head, or any other theory you care to mention. We can be so sure our claims will go unchallenged and unchecked, because the only two men who are genuinely in a position to challenge them have much better things to do. Like race motorcycles for a living, and try to win a MotoGP title, for example.

So what did happen? What we know is that the two men collided on the penultimate lap of the race. The collision was the moment that the fans remember, but how they got to that point is a far more interesting story. One which starts at the beginning of the weekend, when the riders got to try the new tires Bridgestone had brought to the track. Having seen extreme wear from the highly abrasive track the first year MotoGP came to the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, Bridgestone changed their allocation. They built a new, extra hard tire to bring for the Hondas and Yamahas, with a harder compound on the left shoulder. The tire felt less comfortable in the early laps, but it had better durability over the course of the race.

2015 Argentina MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Ducati Disadvantage, Tire Choices, And How Great Tracks Create Surprises

Fast tracks are good for racing. Phillip Island demonstrates this every year, and the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit is confirming it in 2015. The mixture of fast sweepers and tricky braking sections places an emphasis on bike handling and rider ability, over and above sheer engine power. This gives enterprising riders opportunities to excel, and overcome any horsepower disadvantages they may have.

Today was a case in point. The Suzukis had shown yesterday that they were extremely fast around the Argentinian track, and Aleix Espargaro came into qualifying as a favorite to take pole. The medium tire (the softest compound available, which the Hondas and Yamahas do not have in their allocation) gave Espargaro plenty of speed, but would it be enough to stay with Márquez? Perhaps some sleight of hand would be needed. With the hard tire his only race option, Espargaro had some mediums to play with. Taking a leaf out of Marc Márquez' Big Book Of Strategy, he and crew chief Tom O'Kane decided that his best hope of getting pole would be a two-stop strategy: coming in twice to change bikes, using three new tires to chase a top time.

The trouble with stealing from Marc Márquez' Big Book Of Strategy is that you find yourself going up against the man who wrote it. It was at Argentina last year that Márquez and crew chief Santi Hernandez saw that a two-stop strategy might be possible, putting it into practice at the next race at Jerez. "Already last year, when I finished the qualifying practice here, we spoke with the team and saw that it was possible to use three tires, because the good lap was on the first lap," Márquez explained at the front row press conference in Argentina. They had done it at Jerez last year, and went for it in Argentina as well. He was amused that Espargaro had gone for the same trick. "We did it, and Aleix also, I saw that he had the same strategy as me. It was interesting."

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - 122 seconds in the life of Marc Márquez

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.


122 seconds in the life of Marc Márquez

There was quite an admission of guilt from the podium trio at Austin on Sunday. Not one of the top three – Marc Márquez, Andrea Dovizioso or Valentino Rossi – had ridden the entire race flat-out. They’re not getting lazy or anything, they just knew that Austin’s 20 corners and especially the Turn 3/4/5/6/7/8/9 flip-flops and the never-ending Turn 16/17/18 right-hander chew the hell out of the front tyre. So don’t abuse it or it will abuse you.

All these things considered, Márquez was miraculous on race day. Following overnight rain, the track had lost some grip, so he held back in the early laps while Dovizioso crept ahead at the rate of several tenths a lap. Was Márquez struggling? Was he, hell. He was just getting acquainted with the new grip character and once he knew what he was dealing with, he surged forward and that was that. Another brilliant win, his 20th in the premier class, which puts him equal with his forefather Freddie Spencer.

But I won’t remember the weekend for Sunday’s 43-minute race. Much more memorable was what happened on Saturday afternoon.

Scott Jones' Texas Adventure, Part 2 - Track 'N' Tech


Up close and personal with the factory Yamaha M1 - Slipper clutch, brake cylinder, datalogging junction box


Fast and furious. The old man still has it


If only the MotoGP paddock was as open as AMA Superbike... 

The 2015 MotoGP Rules Primer: Engines, Fuel, Tires, Testing And More For The Five Factories

Once upon a time, Grand Prix racing rules were fairly simple: bikes had to have two wheels, weigh 130kg, have a maximum capacity of 500cc and a maximum of four cylinders. The switch to four strokes in 2002 added a lot of complexity to the rules, and things have been getting slowly worse since then. MotoGP now has two different categories with three different rule sets covering a single class, depending on entry type and results in recent years. With Suzuki and Aprilia entering the series in 2015, and another rule change on the horizon for 2016, it's time to take a quick look at the rules for this season, and see what has changed since last year.

The Basics

The basic formula for MotoGP is unchanged. A MotoGP bike is limited to a maximum of 4 cylinders, a maximum capacity of 1000cc, and a maximum bore of 81mm.

For 2015, the minimum weight has been reduced by 2kg to 158kg. That limit is likely to be reduced again for 2016. Bikes are weighed in race trim, including coolant, onboard cameras and electronics, but with an empty fuel tank.

Factory vs Open

As in 2014, MotoGP is divided into two categories: Factory Option and Open class. Factory Option is meant for motorcycle manufacturers, the Open class for private entries and smaller teams. However, just as in 2014, the threat of Ducati's defection to the Open class means that the concessions they were granted in 2014 stay in place, and will be extended to the new factories entering the class, Suzuki and Aprilia.

On Sale Now: The Indispensable MotoMatters.com 2015 Motorcycle Racing Calendar

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MotoMatters.com 2015 Motorcycle Racing Calendar Front Cover

If you have enjoyed MotoMatters.com's coverage of the 2014 season, and are already looking ahead to the 2015 season, then you need the MotoMatters.com 2015 Motorcycle Racing Calendar. As ever, the calendar features the stunning photography of Scott Jones, and a monthly guide containing all of the MotoGP and World Superbike races for the 2015 season, as well as preseason tests for MotoGP, and the schedule for the Isle of Man TT. Scott Jones' photos and the handy race schedule is reason enough to own the calendar, but even more importantly, by buying the calendar, you are helping to keep MotoMatters.com running. The proceeds from the calendar go towards the running of the site, and help both Scott Jones and David Emmett travel to the races, take more great photos and provide even more great information. 

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Money's Too Tight To Mention - Motorcycle Racing's Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics is playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation?

You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

The root of racing's problem is well-known. Once upon a time, when advertising tobacco products on TV and radio was banned, the cigarette companies needed some way of reaching potential customers. Spotting the loophole in the law, they immediately leaped on sports sponsorship as a means to promote their product. They went for sports which were glamorous, exciting, and had an edge of danger, exactly the image they want to project, and came up with motorsports.

Governments around the world saw the loophole they created, and started to close it down. After some clever negotiating by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, motorsports were given an exemption until 2006, at which time all visible promotion of tobacco products in the sport's major markets was completely banned. The good times were over.

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