The latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast is here, and though we are a couple of weeks behind on production, this one is definitely worth a listen. Neil Morrison and David Emmett both attended the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team launch in Barcelona, and afterwards, we looked back at the presentation and discussed what we thought.
As we were present at the launch, we also managed to record some of what the riders had to say. The podcast includes the question and answer sessions with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. We also caught up for an interview with Bradley Smith, and he tells us how he is preparing for 2016, and what he expects to achieve this season. Though the recordings are a couple of weeks old, they are all the more interesting in light of the recent Sepang test held last week. Enjoy the show, there are more coming soon.
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The return of Casey Stoner to Ducati as a test rider has raised more questions than it answered. Fans and media alike are in a state of confusion about his intentions, especially given the times he was setting on the Ducati Desmosedici GP15. What was he doing? Will he race again? When will he test again? To try to put this test and Stoner's role into perspective, here is what we know, what we think we know, and what we don't.
What was Stoner riding?
Casey Stoner spent all three days on the Ducati Desmosedici GP15. He did not test the GP16.
If he's a test rider, why didn't he test the GP16?
A lot of reasons. The GP16 is a brand new bike, and there aren't that many of them yet, so Ducati can't afford to have a test rider destroy one if they crash. The GP16 is not that different to the GP15, so there was plenty for Stoner to test which is transferable to the GP16. Stoner hadn't ridden a MotoGP bike in a year, and hadn't ridden a Ducati since 2010. He hadn't ridden Michelins since 2006, and MotoGP is now using a spec software. For this test, Stoner's aim was to get up to speed, learn and understand the Ducati and a 1000cc era MotoGP bike, complete with Michelins and spec software, and prepare himself for the next test, so that he can provide better input at the next test.
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.
Why Honda never take the easy road
Honda’s RC213V engine is a wild thing, but this is not an unusual problem for them to solve. Here’s why…
Many people will tell you the most important things about preseason tests is lap times. These numbers are endlessly analysed by so-called experts attempting to predict the outcome of the new season, rather like weirdos trying to divine the future by reading the tealeaves in the bottom of their teacups.
It’s all a load of nonsense, of course. Individual preseason lap times mean nothing. If they did, Marc Marquez would’ve won last year’s MotoGP title.
What did we learn from the first proper MotoGP test of the new era of Michelin tires and spec electronics? More than we hoped, yet less than we think. A quick run down on the state of play after Sepang, with more to come over the following days.
The riders approached the Sepang test with some trepidation, fearing that Michelin had not fixed its wayward front that caused so many crashes at Valencia and Jerez. Their fears were unfounded, the new front tires which Michelin brought – a total of five different types, of varying construction and compound – were all a massive step forward. They were not as stable as the Bridgestones they replaced, but they had gained a lot of predictability and feedback. There were very few crashes which the riders said they had not seen coming.
That does not mean that all of the problems have been solved. A couple of people went down at Turn five on Tuesday, in crashes they described as strange. Casey Stoner (more on him later) had a typically concise and thoughtful analysis. "There's a little point after probably 45°, that [the tire profile] goes down just a little bit more, that it doesn't seem to match with the rear with some of the profiles that we've tested," Stoner explained. "That gives everybody a little bit a nervous feeling, and essentially why people are struggling into Turn 5, a big fast open corner, going in, when the bike goes light, it doesn't like that feeling. It makes the bike a little nervous, and I think that's when the front wants to break away."
If being the official supplier to a racing series is a double-edged sword, then being the sole supplier of equipment as essential as tires is doubly so. Leaving aside the complexities of exactly what a four-edged sword would actually look like, being official tire supplier to MotoGP is a role which offers massive opportunities for raising the role of a brand, and having it associated with the most famous names in motorcycle racing. It gets your brand name and logo in front of many tens of millions of race fans and motorcycle enthusiasts every weekend. It also sees your logo plastered all over just about every photo which appears in magazines and newspapers about MotoGP, as well as filling thousands of column inches on websites and in magazines. If you had to pay for the same exposure – a concept known as equivalent advertising value – it would cost you many, many times the €25 million Bridgestone were rumored to have paid for the contract.
There is a downside, of course. It is extremely uncommon to hear riders heap praise upon your tires spontaneously. Bridgestone had to announce they were pulling out of the role of official supplier to receive the praise they deserved, riders immediately paying tribute to just how good their racing tires actually are. By contrast, criticism from riders about the spec tire is both instantaneous and highly vocal. Allow a rider to speak about your tires, and they will expound in great detail on all of the failings, real and perceived of the product you have so lovingly produced. Should you suffer some form of catastrophic failure, or get something horribly wrong, then you face a barrage of coverage, all of it negative. As a tire manufacturer, you leave your PR people fighting fires for weeks, and sometimes months to come.
That is precisely the situation which Michelin finds themselves in this evening. At 10:40 on Tuesday morning, Loris Baz accelerated down the front straight at Sepang, and around two thirds of the way along, the rear tire of his Avintia Ducati GP14.2 exploded. As Dorna only has a couple of cameras at the Sepang Test, the video coverage is mainly from the HD CCTV cameras around the circuit, one of which is permanently trained down the main straight.
The Paddock Pass Podcast is back for another episode, and this time, we are answering questions sent to the @PaddockPassPod Twitter account. MotoMatters.com's own David Emmett is joined by Steve English and Neil Morrison to answer questions on a very wide range of subjects.
We cover a lot of ground, from hosting a race in Indonesia, to the future of Alex Rins, to how Ducati will fare against Honda next season, and whether Andrea Iannone can win at Qatar. We give our view on the changes to the World Superbike format, with races on Saturday and Sunday now, and also confess to owning rider merchandise (some of which we even paid for out of our own pockets). We take a brief look at whether the term GOAT has any meaning in MotoGP, and who our candidates for it would be. And we consider whether Valentino Rossi will be treated any differently than in previous years by his rivals.
Thanks to everyone who sent in a question, and our sincere apologies to those whose questions didn't get answered. We will be doing this more often, and setting up an email address to send your questions to. Until then, you can reach us on Twitter with your questions and feedback.
Dear Next Big Thing:
So you made it into Moto3. Well done. That feat alone makes you one of the most talented motorcycle racers on the planet. You may think that the hardest part of the battle is behind you. You would be wrong. You have your foot on the bottom rung of the ladder to MotoGP stardom. It is a rickety old thing, slick with grease, littered with broken rungs and what look like short cuts and easier routes.
Before you embark on your Grand Prix adventure (and what an adventure it is!) some words of advice from someone who has been in the paddock long enough to have his illusions shattered.
1. You will get nowhere on talent alone
The fact that you are in Moto3 means that your talent is not in question. To get here, you will have beaten the kids your own age, simply by being better at racing a motorcycle than them. That is already an impressive achievement.
The trouble is, Moto3 is full of kids who have all done the same. They have come up through the same system, beat the same kids, towered head and shoulders above their contemporaries. They are at least as good as you are, and some of them will now have a couple of years of experience on you. Getting into the Grand Prix paddock is 90% talent. From here on in, you can't rely on just talent any longer.
So how do you beat a rider who is just as talented as you are? You work on the details which make a difference. Switch your focus from talent to preparation, from being fitter and stronger than the riders you face. The fitter you are, the less quickly you tire. The less quickly you tire, the easier it is to concentrate as the race goes on. You need to be able to sustain your body at or above your anaerobic threshold for 45 minutes. If you can't do that, then the equally talented kid who is fitter than you will beat you in the last five laps.
If you have enjoyed MotoMatters.com's coverage of the 2015 season, and are already looking ahead to 2016, then you need the MotoMatters.com 2016 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 2016 season, as well as preseason tests for MotoGP, and the schedule for the Isle of Man TT. Only a limited number of calendars will be produced, so fans wanting to get their hands on one will have to be quick. 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.
MotoMatters.com's mission is to provide the best possible coverage of MotoGP and World Superbikes: the best reporting, the best background reports, the most in-depth analysis, the most stunning photos. But bringing you this level of coverage simply can't be done without your support. We need your help.