There was much consternation ahead of the Jerez MotoGP test, when it emerged that the Factory Yamaha MotoGP team had imposed a new social media policy. Given that Yamaha has perhaps the strongest presence on social media of all MotoGP teams, fans feared that the access they had been given would be restricted. Apart from riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha also has Alex Briggs, mechanic to Valentino Rossi, Ramon Forcada, crew chief to Jorge Lorenzo, and Wilco Zeelenberg, team manager to Jorge Lorenzo on their payroll, all three popular figures on Twitter.
At the official launch of Yamaha's 2013 MotoGP campaign, MotoMatters.com spoke to Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis to ask about the policy, and try to clear up any confusion surrounding the situation. Our first question was naturally, did Yamaha indeed have a new social media policy? "We have introduced a new policy globally, not only Yamaha MotoGP, but Yamaha Motor as a global operation has introduced a social media guideline," Jarvis said. "So we have introduced our own one for the MotoGP world as well, which is in line with the global policy." The goal of the policy was not to limit the interaction between Yamaha staff and their followers on Social Media, Jarvis explained. "The target of the new policy is not to per se restrict the amount of information that's available, but it is to have an agreed framework reference: what should you be doing, what should we be doing. Because this is important as well. I know Alex [Briggs] was indeed one of the very first people who was out there tweeting and giving people information and tips and such, behind the scenes. And I think that's all valuable stuff. At that time, probably he started five years ago, four years ago at least... [Briggs joined Twitter in October 2009], Yamaha MotoGP didn't have a Twitter account back then. We do now."
With just over a week to go to the start of the 2013 MotoGP season, it's time to take another trip down memory lane and get ourselves excited about this season's racing. Today, shots from MotoMatters.com star shooter Scott Jones taken at Jerez. Remember also to check out the special offers Scott has on signed photos, including riders such as Casey Stoner, Cal Crutchlow and Nicky Hayden. Not long to go now...
Three days of testing at Jerez is over, and the real star of the show is obvious for all to see: The Weather. Of the 18 hours of track time that the MotoGP riders had at their disposal, only about 4 were in consistent conditions, and that was in the pouring rain on Saturday. An afternoon of dry track time - well, dryish, with groundwater seeping through the track from the hills at Jerez which have been lashed by unusually heavy rain all winter long - on Sunday and a bright start to Monday morning left the riders hopeful, but it was not to be.
It took 15 minutes for the first rain to arrive. The track opened at 10am. At 10:15am, the rain started to fall, leaving most of the teams twiddling their thumbs in the garages and hoping for some dry track time. Dani Pedrosa gave up on the day altogether; he had only really been testing odds and ends, new rear shock settings and one or two other bits and pieces anyway, and suffering with neck pain from a strain he suffered at Austin, he decided to call it quits and go home. He missed a few dry hours at the end of the day, but given the stiffness with which he was turning his head to answer the questions of journalists on Sunday evening, choosing to rest his neck was probably a wise move.
While Pedrosa was on his way home, Jorge Lorenzo was doing yet another of his punishing race simulations, pounding out 22 laps of the Jerez track at the kind of pace that secured 2nd place for him at last year's race over 27 laps, a very strong performance given the conditions on the track. Lorenzo finished in a (for him) lowly 4th spot, but his best time was set on the third lap of his race simulation. This is the approach that helped bring him the title in 2012, and the comparison with Pedrosa's physical woes is a valid one. Pedrosa strained a neck muscle whilst riding; Lorenzo has been training both on and off the track to ensure he does not suffer such injuries. Lorenzo is ready to race, and by that, I mean the full race distance.
Press releases after the final day of testing at the IRTA MotoGP test at Jerez:
Valentino Rossi being fastest in a dry MotoGP session brought joy to the hearts of his millions of fans, but also relief to the writers of motorcycle racing headlines. For the past two years, with the exception of a damp and freezing session at Silverstone, the media - especially in Italy - have spent many hours puzzling over how to shoehorn Rossi's name into a news item without it appearing overly clumsy. With little success: "Pedrosa grabs pole, Rossi to start from ninth" sounds, well, as awkward as it does dispiriting.
On Sunday, there was no need for tricky sentence construction. Valentino Rossi grabbed the headlines the way he would want to, on merit. Under a warm sun, and a dry track - well, relatively, but more of that later - Rossi just flat out beat his teammate, and the factory Hondas, and all the other 24 MotoGP machines that took to the track for the second day of the test at Jerez. Beating his teammate, even if it was by just fifteen thousandths of a second, was crucial. That hadn't happened in any of the previous tests, and the gap between himself and Jorge Lorenzo stayed pretty constant: at least three tenths of a second.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the second day of testing at Jerez:
It rained today in Jerez. Boy did it rain. The heavens were open for much of the day, with the intensity of the rain varying between a light drizzle and an absolute deluge, sending people scurrying for cover when the skies darkened too much. A few brave souls ventured out to put in laps, but they did not last very long in the conditions. Until around 3pm, that is, when the rain let up, at least for an hour or so, and everyone took to the track. For two hours, testing was at full tilt, before the rain returned to chase most of the MotoGP men back into the pits.
Though having that much rain is hardly what the riders ordered, it still has its advantages. "It's good to be able to test on a fully wet track," Wilco Zeelenberg said after testing. "Normally, it's that half-wet, half-dry stuff, which is hopeless." Real work could be done on a wet set up, and lessons learned for 2013.
One of those lessons proved to be that the rain tires Bridgestone brought to Jerez are not as hardy as they may need to be. "The performance drops a lot after six, seven laps," Valentino Rossi told the press, explaining that the center of the tire wears very quickly. He was not the only one to complain: all of the factory riders, along with Cal Crutchlow, complained of the same thing. They had all destroyed two sets of rain tires in just a couple of hours, and with just four sets of rain tires to last the three days, they would not be able to manage if it rains on all three days.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after a very wet first day of testing at Jerez
So the final test of the year is upon us, and at last we know what the bike Valentino Rossi - oh, and by the way, reigning MotoGP World Champion and arguably the best motorcycle racer in the world (now that Casey Stoner has retired, and before Marc Marquez gets up to speed) Jorge Lorenzo - will be riding. That it was a big deal was obvious to anyone on Twitter, with a lot of buzz surrounding when the unveiling was, and what the bike would look like.
The crowd of photographers and journalists stood outside in the rain outside the Yamaha garage merely underlined the excitement. The media invitation to the Yamaha 2013 MotoGP launch promised snacks and an aperitif in their large and pleasant hospitality unit ahead of the bike unveiling in the garages. The hospitality unit was almost deserted, the media preferring the rain, and standing waiting to see a bike which everyone who had watched the Yamaha garages being built up the day before had a rough idea of what it would look like. Ducati may have the most prestigious and upmarket launch, but Yamaha certainly know how to generate excitement.
At the presentation of Yamaha's 2013 MotoGP campaign, where the bike which Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will ride in the coming season was unveiled, it was clear that there was one thing missing from the bike: this season, as for the last two years, Yamaha's MotoGP team will not have a title sponsor, but will campaign in corporate colors once again. Though the news hardly came as a surprise - the colors being used throughout the winter testing period suggested that Yamaha would be racing without a title sponsor - we were interested to find out whether the current situation is sustainable.
To that end, we cornered Yamaha Racing's Managing Director Lin Jarvis, and put a few questions to him. Firstly, we asked, could Yamaha's MotoGP team manage without a title sponsor, or was the expanded support from non-title sponsors sufficient? The answer to those questions was "yes and yes" Jarvis quipped. "We can manage, because we are a factory team, and so the basic point of us racing is not to make a profit the basic idea is to promote Yamaha's brand image around the world, to generate excitement in our industry and to develop our engineers and our technologies. Certainly, having more income definitely helps us, so we're constantly searching for new sponsorships, new partners."
"What I'm happy about is that we have retained almost all of our sponsors from last year, and some of them have stepped up. IVECO have stepped up, and increased. We've got Monster Energy on board now. They've been with the riders in the past, with Ben, but Monster coming on board has been a real boost, and has enabled us to put both riders together under the same Monster umbrella. That's completed what I call the Monster pyramid, because they support us in so many classes, but they missed that top class of MotoGP with the factory team. Our situation is better than last year in terms of income, but we still are constantly looking and pushing, not only for income, but also for new partners to promote."
As part of the launch of their 2013 MotoGP campaign, Yamaha issued a bumper crop of videos featuring interviews with key figures in the team. The videos are all posted on Yamaha's Youtube channel, but we have made a selection of some of them below.
First up are the riders. The first interview is with 2012 MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo:
Next is returning former champion Valentino Rossi:
The Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP team launched their 2013 campaign today, and unveiled the livery they will be defending this year. Below are the official photos of the bike, and the (highly vague) specs as provided by Yamaha. Yamaha have also provided a page with downloadable wallpapers of the bikes with and without Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo:
So the three days of testing at Austin are over, and what did we learn? That Marc Marquez is something special? We knew that, though we didn't perhaps realize just how special. That Yamaha really need to find more acceleration? This, too, was known, but becoming clearer every time the M1 goes up against the Honda RC213V on track. That Valentino Rossi's return does not equate to an automatic 8th MotoGP title? We suspected as much.
The first thing that became obvious is that the Austin circuit itself is pretty decent. Valentino Rossi described it as "a typical Tilke track, with corners that remind you of Shanghai and Turkey." Unsurprising, given that Herman Tilke, who also designed Shanghai, Istanbul and many other race tracks around the world, was responsible for designing the track. The input from Kevin Schwantz was helpful, though, making the track more like Istanbul than Shanghai. The circuit has a couple of highly technical sections, where you go in blind and need to have memorized which way the track goes. It is wide, giving opportunities for overtaking and braking, and has a couple of the fast, fast sweepers which motorcycle racers love.