Alex de Angelis
With all of the prototype seats occupied for 2014 - barring a contractual bust up between Ducati and Ben Spies, which is only an expensive theoretical possibility at the moment - battle has commenced for the rest of the MotoGP seats regarded as being most competitive. While the factory bikes - the bikes in the factory and satellite teams being raced as MSMA entries - are all taken, the privateer machines - using Dorna spec ECU software and extra fuel - are still mostly up for grabs.
The three most highly sought after machines are the 2013 Yamaha M1s to be leased by the NGM Forward squad, Honda's production racer (a modified RC213V with a standard gearbox and metal spring instead of pneumatic valves) and the Aprilia ART bikes, which are an increasingly heavily modified version of Aprilia's RSV4 superbike. Of the three, only the ART machine is a known quantity, with Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet having raced the bikes with some success in 2012 and 2013, joined by Yonny Hernandez and Karel Abraham this year. Teams and riders will have to guess about the performance of the Yamahas and Hondas, though given the basis of the two machines, it is a safe bet they will be relatively competitive.
The most popular machine among riders is the Yamaha M1, naturally enough. The bike is a near complete 2013 machine, with a few parts excluded, such as the fuel tank, and will utilize the spec ECU software from Dorna, being developed by the current CRT teams. Given just how good the 2013 M1 is - Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have won races on it, Cal Crutchlow has scored regular podiums - it is expected to be the best privateer machine on the grid next season, and anyone hoping to advance in the series is angling for a ride on it.
And so Giovanni Cuzari, the team boss of Forward, is a very popular man with the riders. He has had talks with almost everyone who is anyone, including current Pata Honda World Superbike rider Johnny Rea, Aspar's Aleix Espargaro, now rideless Nicky Hayden, current BMW World Superbike man Marco Melandri, IODA Came's Danilo Petrucci, as well as current Forward riders Colin Edwards and Claudio Corti, and Forward's Moto2 rider Alex De Angelis.
The Ducati Corse department have had a busy two days at Misano. Alongside the Ducati World Superbike squad of Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini, Ducati's full MotoGP program was at the circuit, with both factory riders, Andrea Iannone, Alex de Angelis (who is to replace Ben Spies at Laguna Seca), and both test riders.
They also had plenty of things to test and evaluate. Ducati had brought another new chassis, a revised version of the lab bike version previously tested by both Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden, and being raced by Michele Pirro. That chassis spent most of its time in the hands of Dovizioso, the Italian declaring himself satisfied with the improvements made. Dovizioso told Italian site GPOne.com that the chassis was slightly better on corner entry, though the understeer remained once the throttle was opened. He intends to race the chassis at the Sachsenring next weekend, though so far, there is only one of the chassis available, meaning he would have to use two bikes with two different chassis at the tricky German circuit. Dovizioso also admitted that he did not have a base set up yet for the new chassis, as it was too different from the standard chassis to be able to use the set up he had been using so far.
Ben Spies' absence due to his shoulder injury will extend to Laguna Seca. The Texan is still going through physical rehab to get the shoulder he injured at Sepang last year up to strength, and he hopes to be back to full fitness for the final US round of MotoGP at Indianapolis at the end of August.
With Spies still out for two more races, the Ignite Pramac team needs a replacement. Michele Pirro will take Spies' place at the Sachsenring in just under two week's time, but Ducati's official test rider is not available for Laguna, as he has more testing scheduled that week at Misano in Italy. As a result, Pramac has asked Alex De Angelis to step in for the Laguna Seca round, as the lack of a Moto2 round at Laguna means the NGM Forward rider is availabe to take Spies' seat at the California circuit. De Angelis already has MotoGP experience, having raced two seasons for the Gresini Honda team in 2008 and 2009, and having replaced Hiroshi Aoyama for three rounds in 2010.
The NGM Forward Racing team issued the following press release after their team launch in Milan:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the thrilling races at Sepang:
With Colin Edwards back home in Texas, NGM Forward Racing's Moto2 rider Alex de Angelis - a man with MotoGP experience, having raced in the class in 2008 and 2009 - has been drafted in to continue work on the Suter BMW MotoGP CRT bike. Here's the press release from the team:
While the Aspar team was making its presentation in Valencia, the Forward Racing Team took advantage of the heavy press presence at Jerez for the Moto2 IRTA test to launch its 2012 challenge in Moto2 and Moto3, in the spectacular setting of the VIP "saucer" which hangs above the circuit. The presentation got underway very late, as bad weather delayed Edwards' departure from the US, the Texan rushing straight from the airport to the track for the launch.
At the presentation, Edwards talked to the press about the state of development of the BMW Suter CRT project. The bike had made a lot of progress, though they were still a way from being 100% competitive. The electronics had improved a lot, he said, though the improved electronics had caused a recurrence of the chatter problem. The CRT machines were still outgunned, though, Edwards said. "The MotoGP bikes are a 50 caliber, and we're a 308," the Texan quipped.
Just how much different a less power-hungry circuit makes will be apparent from Friday, when all of the CRT bikes face the MotoGP factory prototypes at Jerez for the final test of the season.
Below is the NGM Mobile Forward Racing press release from the launch:
The FIM today released the provisional entry lists for all three Grand Prix classes, and the grids are looking remarkably healthy. Some 21 riders will line up in the MotoGP class, the Moto2 grid has been shrunk to a more manageable 33 entries, and 32 riders will be at the start for the inaugural season of racing in the Moto3 class, the grid the same size as it was for last year's 125cc class, which Moto3 replaces.
There are no surprises in the MotoGP class. As expected, there are 21 entries: 12 factory prototype entries and 9 CRT entries. Of the factory prototypes (which includes satellite machines), the three factory teams remain unchanged with the exception of the reduction of the Repsol Honda squad from three riders to two, Andrea Dovizioso having been dropped, despite finishing 3rd in the championship in 2011 ahead of Dani Pedrosa, who retains his seat. Dovizioso joins Cal Crutchlow at Monster Tech 3, Yamaha maintaining its commitment at 4 YZR-M1 machines. Both Honda and Ducati have cut back to just two satellite bikes apiece, with the bikes spread over four different teams. Stefan Bradl, whose usual number, 65, was retired in honor of Loris Capirossi, has elected to use the number 6.
After the dramatic events of Misano, which saw Shoya Tomizawa lose his life after crashing during the Moto2 race, attendance at the Safety Commission meeting at Aragon - the first convened after Misano - was very strong. Everyone had come to hear Race Direction explain their actions, and give their reasons for not red-flagging the Moto2 race, and a long discussion ensued over the pros and cons of having astroturf on the outside of corners.
All of the riders who attended described the meeting as very positive, and the atmosphere as very open. The riders said that Race Direction was very open to the ideas of the riders, and everyone in the room was looking for lessons that could be learned from the incident involving Tomizawa, Scott Redding and Alex de Angelis.
Nicky Hayden, Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso were three of the riders present at the meeting. Here's what they had to say about the meeting afterwards.
On the opinion of the riders on astroturf:
It's mixed. I think that astroturf's good but it's too grippy, you know, it don't scare anybody. Especially 125 and Moto2 riders, people don't even slow down for it. They get their tires onto it. I think they need astroturf but more slippery. So when you get onto it, you have to slow down.
As if the Moto2 grid wasn't confusing enough already, the Misano round for the 40-strong Moto2 class features a host of replacement riders and wildcards. Making things even worse, some of the replacements and wildcards are riders who have left one team and gone on to ride for another. Here's a rundown of the Misano Moto2 Musical Chairs:
First of all, the absentees: Aeroport de Castello's Alex Debon is out after fracturing his collarbone yet again, the 4th time in 10 months, after falling at Indianapolis. HolidayGym's Fonsi Nieto is also missing, having cracked his heelbone in the Indy Moto2 mayhem. Nieto has been extraordinarily unlucky: not only did he fracture bones in his foot, but the Spaniard had problems during surgery on his foot which saw him suffer a respiratory arrest as a result of the anesthetics being used. So serious was the situation that Nieto was even in danger of having his foot amputated because of the complications.
Toni Elias' Gresini teammate Vladimir Ivanov is also absent due to injury, as is JIR Moto2's Yusuke Teshima - himself a replacement for Mattia Pasini, who left after a dispute over finances - and Arne Tode of Team Germany, both of whom picked up (further) injuries at Indy.
While Scott Jones, MotoMatters.com's own photographer is back home in California, our friend Jules Cisek is here at Brno instead. And fortunately for us, Jules is a dab hand with the camera as well. Here's his photos from Saturday.
After reporting yesterday that a deal between Alex de Angelis and Interwetten Honda to replace Hiroshi Aoyama was near, events are moving quickly. Today, the Interwetten team announced the deal was done, and the Team Scot Moto2 rider will be filling in for Aoyama until the Japanese rider's return in September. De Angelis' experience in MotoGP and the strong relationship De Angelis still has with HRC made the deal relatively easy to put together. The replacement for De Angelis in Team Scot's Moto2 team is as yet unknown, but the names of Andrew Pitt and Lorenzo Savadori are currently doing the rounds.
Below is the press release issued by the Interwetten Team announcing the deal: