Press releases from most of the MotoGP teams and Michelin ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix:
It was a weekend of contrasts in Germany. Four weathers in a race weekend is usually something associated with Phillip Island, but with 30°C temperatures having welcomed the WorldSBK paddock from their summer break, the heat gradually transitioned to a downpour on a cold and windy Sunday.
With Chaz Davies and Jonathan Rea claiming the spoils in the races there was little reason to think that this was a standout weekend, but in many ways the German round of WorldSBK could prove pivotal when the season concludes.
Nicky Hayden is to make a temporary return to MotoGP. The American is to spend his weekend off between WorldSBK races filling in for the injured Jack Miller at the Aragon round of MotoGP. Hayden is to ride Miller's Marc VDS Honda RC213V, marking his first ride on a full MotoGP bike since he left Ducati at the end of 2013.
Miller has chosen to skip the Aragon round after suffering problems with a hand injury he picked up in a crash in Austria. The bones in his right hand have been slow to heal, and the intense MotoGP schedule since the series' return after the summer break has meant the injury has been getting worse. The stresses of braking and accelerating on a MotoGP bike have caused the fractures to reopen. The problem became so severe at Misano that the Australian was forced to withdraw from the race.
With seven races to go, and three to be held over the next four weekends, the MotoGP championship is entering a crucial phase. Marc Márquez' 53 point lead over Valentino Rossi means finishing on the podium for the rest of the races would be sufficient for him to clinch his third MotoGP title. The two caveats being that Valentino Rossi must win the remaining seven races, and Márquez must finish second on at least three occasions.
Márquez also has a lead of 59 points over Jorge Lorenzo. Just two second places among seven podium finishes would be enough to ensure he beat Lorenzo to the championship. Though once again, Lorenzo would have to win all seven remaining races.
A likely scenario? Not really. The chances of either Lorenzo or Rossi winning seven races in a row are very close to zero. The remaining seven races could conceivably all be won by a Movistar Yamaha rider, but the most likely scenario in that case would be both Rossi and Lorenzo swapping victories each week. An even more likely chain of events would be Rossi, Lorenzo, and Márquez taking it in turns on the top step. And if Márquez finishes ahead of either Rossi or Lorenzo, that swings the pendulum in further in his direction.
While the MotoGP grid is as good as settled, Silly Season for World Superbikes is in full swing. With the Kawasaki riders' contracts settled before the summer break, attention has turned to the other seats, most of which are up in the air. In addition, there could be some changes in machinery, with some teams eyeing a switch of manufacturers.
The biggest news – still unofficial, but widely believed to be a done deal – is that Marco Melandri is set to make a return to the World Superbike paddock, this time in the factory Aruba.it Ducati team alongside Chaz Davies.
Melandri has been angling for a ride ever since his departure from the factory Aprilia MotoGP squad, a move he had never wanted to make in the first place. Over the past twelve months or so, he has been linked to rides with Yamaha, Aprilia, BMW and Kawasaki in World Superbikes, and – possibly the most bizarrely inaccurate rumor to be published in a while – to a ride with BMW in MotoGP. (The fact that BMW have no intention of racing in MotoGP, and the break up with Melandri in 2013 so acrimonious that they would not have him back anyway is what made that particular rumor so entertaining.)
Melandri's return to the fold
The WorldSBK season goes on its annual summer break with the championship suddenly poised on a much finer edge than was imaginable just a week ago.
Jonathan Rea's dominance of the current campaign has been almost unparalleled. However, his run of 17 consecutive podium finishes to open the season is now over and suddenly he faces a threat from within for his title defense.
An engine issue left Rea on the sidelines in Race 2, his championship lead immediately cut to 46 points. It is still a comfortable margin for Rea but suddenly doubt can creep into the Team 65 side of the Kawasaki garage. Tom Sykes' win on Sunday marked a return to the winner's circle for the former champion and while he is still an outside bet for the title he is at least back in realistic range of Rea.
Equal spoils for Kawasaki riders?
A win apiece for Rea and Sykes left them both with reason to cheer in California but it was Sykes that will leave the happier rider. The 2013 champion left Laguna Seca with 45 points and some momentum entering the summer break.
Sykes followed his teammate home in Race 1 but took advantage of Rea's retirement to take 25 points from his rival. Having crashed in Assen earlier in the season the tally stands at one retirement each but the 46 point lead still gives Rea a very healthy title cushion.
Donington Park has become the personal playground of 2013 WorldSBK champion Tom Sykes. Sykes has now claimed an incredible eight wins in a row at his home circuit, and after Sunday's races he explained how much it meant and also what it means going forward. Marcel Duinker offers his insight into whether Sykes has an advantage at Donington Park due to his riding style.
For the majority of last year PJ Jacobsen was the sole American riding in the WorldSBK paddock but last weekend the numbers swelled to three with Cameron Beaubier joining series rookie Nicky Hayden on the Superbike starting grid. The MotoAmerica champion aquitted himself well and we will assess what it means for the domestic championship.