Just when it looked like the MotoGP silly season was getting ready to wrap up, a few new developments threw a spanner or two in the works. A week ago, most MotoGP pundits were convinced that Cal Crutchlow would be going to Ducati, Scott Redding would be moving up with his Marc VDS Racing team, and there was next to no interest in Yamaha's leased engines. At the Sachsenring, many things changed, in part at the instigation of Honda, and in part because of Yamaha.
Honda has made the biggest move in the market. At the Sachsenring, credible rumors emerged of Honda attempting to secure both Redding and Crutchlow, in two different moves. HRC's approach to Crutchlow could cause the biggest upset. The Japanese factory is known to be very impressed by Crutchlow, but their dilemma is that all four Honda prototype seats are ostensibly taken for 2014. While both Marquez and Pedrosa have contracts for next year, and Bautista is locked in at Gresini for 2014, Stefan Bradl's seat at LCR Honda could possibly be available. While Bradl is locked in to a two-year deal with HRC, Honda hold the option to decide not to take the second year, potentially freeing up Bradl's bike, and that seat could then be taken by Cal Crutchlow.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after Sunday's German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying for Sunday's German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring:
The second and final day of testing in Argentina got off to a damp start, with rain falling for much of the morning - the curse of MotoGP, it appears, as it had not previously rained in the area for several months, local sources reported. Not wishing to risk injury in the damp, the MotoGP and Moto2 riders present stayed off the bikes in the morning, mingling instead with the fans. The afternoon saw the sun return, and the riders take to the track once again, putting more laps on the bikes and providing valuable feedback for Yamaha and Honda, as well as for Bridgestone and Dunlop.
Times on the second day were slower than on Thursday, Alvaro Bautista topping the timesheets with a best time of 1'45.578, nearly a second and a half slower than the best time set by Stefan Bradl on Thursday. The rain had made the track a good deal slower, but with just six bikes on track - seven, if you include Randy Mamola, who was giving two-up rides aboard Ducati's X2 machine at the circuit - times were never going to be representative. Once the full MotoGP grid descends on the Termas de Rio Hondo, times are likely to drop by at least a second.
MotoGP bikes have at last taken to the track at Argentina, marking the return of Grand Prix racing to South America for the first time in nine years. All of the riders praised the layout, liking the fast and sweeping nature of some of the sections. Other parts are technical and challenging, but the track appears to have several different lines around it, promising good racing when the series alights for the Argentinian round in 2014.
With a very dusty track, and only six machines present to sweep the dust from the track, it is hard to attach any significance to the times. Stefan Bradl was the fastest man on the day, lapping in the low 1'44s, and testing a lot of tires. Alvaro Bautista was the second quickest man, while Cal Crutchlow was nearly a second off the pace of Bradl. Whether that means that the Termas de Rio Hondo track is a Honda circuit remains to be seen, as the dusty track made it hard for the Yamaha to use its advantage in edge grip at extreme lean. We will only get an idea of the real balance of power in Argentina once the full MotoGP grid turns up.
The bikes have finally hit the track at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina. Pushbikes, that is ... Cal Crutchlow, Alvaro Bautista, Hector Barbera, Stefan Bradl and Tito Rabat have all spent time lapping the Argentinian circuit ahead of the two-day test which starts on Thursday, some circulating on bicycles, some lapping the track in rental cars.
First reports from the track are positive, with all of the riders tweeting that they like the layout. It appears to be a fast track, with several fast, sweeping corners, the kind of track which riders love, and as promised by the race organizers when they announced the race just over a year ago at Assen. It would be the fastest track on the calendar, was the promise. The general assessment is that the track looks safe, with no dangerous areas, which is a major positive for the track.
2013 Assen MotoGP Wednesday Round Up: Of Weird Wednesdays, Difficult Ducatis, And MotoGP's Long Term Future
Wednesday at Assen is always a rather odd day. At most rounds, Wednesday is a travel day, and the paddock regulars spend the day in airports, planes and hire cars. But because the race at Assen is on Saturday, the events that normally take place on Thursday such as the pre-event press conference, happen a day earlier. That leaves everyone with the racing equivalent of jet lag, their bodies and minds 24 hours behind events. Mentally, we are all prepared for a day of torpor and inaction. What we are greeted with is a day of rushing around to talk to riders, team managers, and anyone else foolish enough to cross our paths. Mind battles physical reality, and both come out losers.
Even focusing on the upcoming race is hard. Rolling into the circuit under bright skies and cheery temperatures - not warm, but not freezing either - feels slightly surreal after having studied the weather forecasts for the coming days. While race day is likely to be dry, Thursday and Friday look like being full wet days. What that means is that practice may not be much of a guide to what actually happens on race day, rendering practice and qualifying relatively meaningless.
Ducati, at least, will welcome the rain. "The rain is bad for the fans, but it's good for Ducati," Nicky Hayden quipped, though he was not entirely happy with the situation. The Ducati goes very well in the wet, despite still struggling in the dry. Though a wet race may act as a placebo - though perhaps an analgesic is a better metaphor - in easing the pain of the Ducati riders, the fact of the matter is that Andrea Dovizioso, Nicky Hayden, Andrea Iannone and Michele Pirro, still taking the place of the injured Ben Spies, are starting to run out of options.
The Dutch TT at Assen looks like being a very busy few days for everyone looking for a ride next year. The end of June has been earmarked as a deadline for all sorts of negotiations, from rider contracts to bike projects. Decisions will be made and contracts - or at least letters of intent - will be signed. A lot of paperwork should get done by the time the trucks roll out of the paddock on Sunday, heading for Germany and the Sachsenring.
Though most of the prototype rides are already wrapped up, there are still a few seats open, and some interesting and major changes could be on the way. The focal point for the future, and the key to all of the moves for next year is Scott Redding. The young Briton has raised his game in 2013, elevating himself to both the favorite for the 2013 Moto2 title, and hot property for MotoGP next season. Redding's prospects went from a possible ride on a Honda production racer with Marc VDS, on a relatively limited budget, to factories reconsidering their current contracts to see if they can make room for the Gloucestershire youngster.
Redding's options are still very open, the only limit the existing contracts the factories have. All three manufacturers would be keen to get their hands on him, with Ducati the current favorite to secure his services. Yamaha's hands are perhaps most tied, especially as Cal Crutchlow appears to be drawing ever closer to renewing his contract with the Tech 3 team, possibly including some kind of additional support from the factory. Redding could only join Yamaha if Bradley Smith could be persuaded to step aside, but the Englishman's contract looks to be pretty watertight so far.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after Sunday's GP de Catalunya at Barcelona:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after Sunday's Italian Grand Prix at Mugello:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello:
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the races at Donington Park:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after an exhilarating French Grand Prix in Le Mans:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Le Mans: