2015 Motegi Saturday Round Up: The Key To Rossi's Qualifying, The Perils Of Data Sharing, And Fast Fenati, Finally
Has Valentino Rossi finally mastered qualifying? The Italian has struggled since the format changed, from the extended hour of qualifying which started out as free practice and ended up as an all-out time attack, to the frenetic fifteen-minute dash for pole. His biggest problem, he always explained, was getting up to speed from the start: leaving pit lane and going flat out from the very first meters. He had spent a lifetime slowly sidling up to a blistering lap, rather than getting the hammer down as soon as the lights changed. The switch from an analog to a binary format had been hard to swallow. Millions of older fans sympathized, as they faced the same struggle in their own lives.
Lorenzo, on the other hand, has thrived in the new format, having learned the skill while doing battle with Casey Stoner. The Australian's greatest legacy was his ability to go as fast as possible the moment he left the pit lane. I was once told by Cristian Gabarrini, Stoner's crew chief, that when they looked at his sector times, they would see that he had set his fastest sector times on his out lap. To beat Stoner, Lorenzo had to learn to emulate him. That ability has benefited him twofold: firstly, in the new qualifying format, he can put the hammer down right out of pit lane, without any mental preparation for speed. Secondly, Lorenzo has been able to convert those pole positions into a lot of wins by being able to blast off the line and into the lead before the first corner, then open a gap which his pursuers can never bridge.
That blistering speed has given Lorenzo an added advantage in qualifying. By having the pace to push from the start, he cuts vital seconds from the out lap. Those seconds add up, and can under some circumstances mean the difference between managing to get in for two stops, and being forced to make do with a single stop. There are upsides and downsides to both approaches: more stops means you need more tires, both front and rear, to be able to extract the maximum lap time. You have no time to make set up adjustments, and you are usually forced into swapping bikes as well, something riders often do not like as the two bikes can feel slightly different.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Motegi:
2015 Motegi Friday Round Up: The Key To Zarco's Title, Lorenzo's Strong Shoulder, And The Threat From The Ducatis
It's only Friday, but already, one championship has been decided. Tito Rabat's mission to outscore Johann Zarco was tough enough before he crashed at Almeria and broke his wrist, but trying to handle the immense braking stresses of the Japanese circuit with a freshly plated radius proved too much to ask. Rabat's attempt was brave, but ultimately doomed to failure. After riding in FP1, Rabat realized that it wasn't so much the pain, but rather a lack of strength in the arm needed to control the bike safely. Forced to withdraw, Rabat's title defense came to an end, and Johann Zarco became the 2015 Moto2 World Champion.
It was a rather bewildered Zarco who faced the press later on Friday. His mind was still focused on Sunday's race, rather than on becoming champion. He could barely comprehend that he had already won the title. Mentally, he had prepared to celebrate on Sunday, after the race, so the title had come unexpectedly early. It did not put him off his stride, however. Zarco was twelve thousandths slower than Tom Luthi in FP1, and nineteen thousandths faster than Alex Rins in FP2. He remains the man to beat in Moto2, exactly as he has been all year.
Zarco is a truly deserving champion. He has dominated the Moto2 class all year, despite getting off to a rocky start – and almost disastrously smashing into the pit wall along Qatar's front straight, as he tried to fix a gear lever which had worked loose. He took over the lead in the championship in Argentina, taking the first of six wins so far this year, and held on to it through sheer consistency. Since the second race of the year at Austin, Zarco has been off the podium only once, struggling to sixth at Aragon, the first signs he was starting to feel the pressure as he had his first theoretical chance to lift the Moto2 crown.
The withdrawal of Tito Rabat from the Motegi round of Moto2, suffering a lack of strength in the arm he broke in a training accident last week, removed the last obstacle between Johann Zarco and the 2015 Moto2 world championship. With a 78-point lead over Rabat and the Spaniard unable to score any more points, Zarco will leave Motegi with an unassailable lead. With his crown secured, Dorna and his Ajo Racing team put out the following press releases celebrating Zarco's 2015 Moto2 title.
2015 Moto2 World Champion
It's been a long road for Johann Zarco, but the Japanese GP sees him become the 2015 Moto2™ World Champion.
Johann Zarco took his first steps towards a life filled with racing when he began racing minibikes in Italy, finishing second overall in 2005 and 2006. He joined the Red Bull Rookies Cup during its inaugural year in 2007 and became their first champion with four victories and seven podiums in eight races. Two years later, the pilot from Cannes, France made his debut in the 125cc World Championship with the WTR San Marino Team where he ended the year in 20th position, improving to 11th the following year.
In 2011 the Frenchman evolved, jumping to the Avant AirAsia Ajo Derbi team and conquering ten podiums together, pushing for the 125cc title till the end. In Motegi, just four races from the end of the year, Zarco took a career first victory but in the end finished second to Spaniard Nico Terol in the championship. His solid performance granted him 262 championship points and also earned him a ride in the Moto2™ World Championship with Team JiR in 2012.
Tito Rabat has suffered a fracture of the radius of his left arm. The reigning Moto2 champion crashed while training at Almeria in preparation for the Pacific triple header, falling and injuring his arm. He immediately underwent surgery to have a plate fitted to his arm, and is to fly to Japan where he intends to try to race.
The cause of the crash is not clear. Rabat blamed the crash on a technical problem, causing him to fall at the chicane, but due to his injury, he has not been able to take a look at the bike to determine what caused the problem. This is Rabat's second training-related injury this season, having also broken his collarbone earlier in the year after a crash at Almeria.
Rabat's decision to race is forced by his desire to defend his title. Johann Zarco leads Rabat by 78 points, so if Rabat wants to keep his title hopes alive, he has to score 4 points more than Zarco at Motegi. Even then, Rabat will need the Frenchman to score a number of DNFs. But riders are not willing to give up on a title until the mathematics says it is impossible.
Below is the press release from the Marc VDS Racing Estrella Galicia team:
Rabat ready to race in Japan despite training injury
Aragon was a busy time for the riders and managers in all three Grand Prix classes. Wrapping up contract negotiations before the circus heads east for the Pacific Ocean flyaways was high on the list of priorities, though not everything ended up getting sorted before the teams packed up at Aragon. Plenty of agreements were reached, however, as we shall see below.
Though most of the loose ends have been tied up in MotoGP, a few question marks remain. The Aspar team was one of those question marks, which came much closer to a conclusion at Aragon. The original plan was to have Jack Miller join the team, bringing his crew with him, and covering most of the cost of riding, but various obstacles prevented that from happening. Money was a major factor, in part the amount Aspar were willing to pay to have Miller in their team, but perhaps a bigger factor was being left with Hondas.
The Open class Hondas have both been a huge disappointment for all of the teams which have run them. The 2014 RCV1000R was massively underpowered, and was getting blown away by the factory bikes along the straight. To remedy that situation, Honda offered the RC213V-RS, a cheaper version of the factory RC213V, but without the seamless transmission and using the spec electronics. That bike has also not been competitive, perhaps in part because it is a stripped down version of the original. "This bike was designed to use a seamless gearbox," Nicky Hayden explained last weekend. "You can't get the best out of it without one."
While the world of motorcycle racing is still buzzing with the outcome of the MotoGP race at Aragon, it is easy to overlook a couple of exciting and important races in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes. In both cases, the championship leaders came to Aragon with the chance to put one hand on the title, and in both cases, they leave Europe empty handed, having failed to capitalize on the opportunities which presented themselves. The races also provided a couple of extremely deserving winners capping great battles in both classes.
The Moto3 race turned out to be the thriller everyone expected. A modest (by Moto3 standards) group made the break, Miguel Oliveira taking the initiative and the lead. He was joined naturally enough by the two rivals for the title, Enea Bastianini trying to push forward as much as possible, Danny Kent keeping a wary eye on Bastianini. Brad Binder tagged along at the back, while a strong start from Romano Fenati took him from his usual poor qualifying position to the fight at the front. Efren Vazquez was in the fray, as were Niccolo Antonelli and Jorge Navarro, both looking very strong. Jorge Martin impressed in the group, putting the Mahindra right in among the leaders.
Danny Kent has finally made a decision on where he will be racing next year. Today, the Leopard Racing team announced that Kent is to remain with the team for 2016, and move up to Moto2. There, he will partner Miguel Oliveira aboard Kalex Moto2 machines.
Kent's decision had been a long time coming. Ducati had tried to tempt the Englishman to go straight to MotoGP, Kent already having spent a year in Moto2. Kent had first been linked with Pramac, but had lost that ride when it was taken by Scott Redding. Aspar had made a late play for Kent's signature, but on Saturday morning, Kent decided his best option was to stay with his current team and go back to Moto2.
Below is the press release from the Leopard Racing team:
LEOPARD RACING AND DANNY KENT TOGETHER IN MOTO2 IN 2016
Leopard Racing proudly announces to continue their collaboration with Danny Kent, though the Englishman will step up to Moto2 category from next season onwards.
After the announcement that Miguel Oliveira will take part in Leopard Racing’s Moto2 efforts next year, it is confirmed that Danny Kent will ride alongside the Portuguese rider in the team’s completely new challenge for the upcoming season. An equivalent agreement finally was reached at the Gran Premio de Aragón this weekend.
The last two races have followed a familiar pattern. On Friday and Saturday, Jorge Lorenzo has laid down a scorching pace, which his rivals – and more importantly, his teammate and rival for the 2015 MotoGP title, Valentino Rossi – have been unable to follow. Lorenzo's name was penciled onto the winner's trophy, and his grip on the MotoGP class looked secure.
Then on Sunday, everything changed. The weather gods intervened, rain lashed down at Silverstone, then started and stopped at Misano, throwing the race into disarray. Both times, Valentino Rossi handled the conditions better than Lorenzo, gaining big points in both races. At Silverstone, Rossi won comfortably, while Jorge Lorenzo struggled home in fourth. At Misano, Rossi rode a tactically poor race, but still managed to come home in fifth. Lorenzo got caught out by the pace of Scott Redding, failing to understand that the Marc VDS rider had already been out for several laps and had his tires up to temperature and his brain up to speed. The Movistar Yamaha rider tried to stay with Redding, and paid the price when he turned left after a long series of rights, crashing out and scoring zero points.
2015 Aragon MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Being Fastest vs Finishing First, And Advice For Young Riders From A Moto2 Champ
When different riders agree on a subject, it is worth listening. Summing up the 2015 championship, both Marc Márquez and Andrea Dovizioso independently came to the same conclusion. When asked in the press conference who was stronger, Valentino Rossi or Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez explained that it wasn't as simple as that. "It's difficult to say," Márquez said. "If you ask me, I would say Jorge is faster because his speed is really good. On the other side, Valentino is doing his 100% and he always finishes in front these last two races."
Earlier in the day, Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso had been asked if he could become one of the wild cards which could help decide the championship. "In a normal situation, it's quite difficult. But not impossible," Dovizioso replied. But the championship was far from decided, Dovizioso went on to add. "I think that the points gap between Valentino and Lorenzo is quite big now, and Valentino is really good at managing the points. But I think Lorenzo has the speed to fight and to gain the points. Still there a lot of races left. I think he has the speed and is strong enough thinking about himself to try to win the race, and anything can happen."
Press release previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
From the coast to the high plains. From the hubbub of a string of seaside resorts along the Adriatic Riviera to the vast unspoiled mountains and hills of Baja Aragon. From the green and fertile Po basin to the arid olive groves and vineyards of the Maestrazgo. Contrasts don't get much greater than between Misano in Italy and Motorland Aragon in Spain.
The tracks, too, are very different. Misano is fairly slow, with a lot of tight first gear corners. Aragon is much faster, with some tighter sections, but a couple of seriously fast and flowing corners. Misano is pretty much flat as a pancake, where Aragon has its own version of Laguna Seca's Corkscrew, though not quite so precipitous, and a long, fast downhill back straight leading to a long double-apex left hander and a climb uphill to the finish.
The scenery may change, but the storyline in MotoGP remains the same. The championship remains a head-to-head battle between the Movistar Yamaha men, much as it has been since Le Mans. After Misano, the ball is very much back in Valentino Rossi's court, having extended his lead over Jorge Lorenzo to 23 points. He will need that cushion, as the championship now arrives at Aragon, a circuit where Lorenzo arrives as clear favorite, having had some strong results here in the past. Rossi, meanwhile, is at one of his worst tracks, Aragon being one of just two tracks where the Italian has never won, Austin being the other.
The Gresini Aprilia Racing team have finally confirmed what we have all known for some time. Stefan Bradl is to remain with the factory Aprilia team for 2016 alongside Alvaro Bautista, while Sam Lowes is to join Aprilia on a three-year deal, the first of which will be spent trying to win the Moto2 championship on a Kalex.
The signing of Bradl comes as no surprise. The German has done exceptionally well on the RS-GP since joining Aprilia at Indianapolis after the collapse of Forward Racing. At 25, and with experience on both the Honda RC213V and the Open class Yamaha, he provides an excellent basis for the ongoing development of Aprilia's new prototype MotoGP bike set to see its first outing on the track at Sepang next year. Bradl is in a prime position to be the rider Aprilia puts its faith in for the future.
Lowes, meanwhile, will spend another year in Moto2, trying to win the world championship. Lowes has excelled on the Speed Up, far outperforming any other rider on the chassis, having made good progression in his second year in the class. Lowes has the opportunity to become the first rider in history to win a championship in both Grand Prix and World Superbike racing, having already wrapped up the World Supersport title in 2013.
Press releases after Sunday's races at Misano:
Leopard Racing have confirmed that they will be moving up to Moto2 in 2016. Today, they announced the first of their signings for a two man team, with Miguel Oliveira moving up to make the switch to Moto2. It is believed that Danny Kent, currently leading the Moto3 championship, is also in the frame for the Moto2 seat at Leopard, but Kent is still eyeing a possible option in MotoGP. News is expected from Kent's camp early next week.
Below is the press release announcing Oliveira's signing:
LEOPARD RACING REACH AGREEMENT WITH MIGUEL OLIVEIRA FOR MOTO2
Leopard Racing proudly announces a contract signed with Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira to compete in Moto2 in 2016.
After just one year as new colourful entry in Grand Prix racing on world stage, Leopard Racing is to start a project in the highly competitive Moto2 category alongside to its Moto3 outfit. With Miguel Oliveira, a young and promising rider is signed for the 2016 campaign in the intermediate category of the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship. The agreement was finally reached during the weekend at the San Marino Grand Prix.