Ducati is to lose the first of the special concessions granted at the start of the 2014 season. The two podiums which Ducati scored at Qatar bring its dry podium total to three, which means that the fuel allowance for all Factory Option Ducati bikes will be cut from 24 liters to 22 liters, as we reported on Sunday night. The allowance of 22 liters is still 2 liters more than the 20 liters used by Yamaha and Honda, who race without any concessions.
The extra fuel allowance was part of a package of extra allowances granted to Ducati to persuade them to remain a Factory Option entry and not to switch to the Open class. Manufacturers entering MotoGP for the first time in 2015, or like Ducati, did not have a dry win during the 2013 season, were granted a number of exceptions to the standard rules. Such factories were given 24 liters of fuel rather than 20, were allowed to use 12 engines a season instead of 5, were not subject to the freeze on engine development, were allowed unlimited testing, and were given the softer tire allocation granted to the Open class entries.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after Sunday's thrilling opening round at Qatar:
2015 Qatar MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Ducati's Revival, An Underrated Dovizioso, And Yamaha's Struggles
A Ducati on pole? Three Ducatis on the first two rows? Four Ducatis in the top ten? Cheater tire! The only logical explanation for the grid positions the factory and Pramac Ducati secured at Qatar is the fact they have the special soft tire available to them. And that tire, we are told by everyone who is not on a Ducati, is worth a second a lap. So the grid positions of the Ducati are a travesty, right? Come the race, they'll be rolling road blocks holding up the rest once their tires go off, right?
Wrong. This narrative, current among everyone who sees their favorite rider further down the grid than they had hoped for, bears only a very passing resemblance to the truth. The soft tire may offer some advantage to those who are allowed to use it, but it takes experience and data to get the best out of the softer rubber. Ducati have plenty of data they can pass on to the Pramac team, but the Desmosedici GP15 of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone has barely had more than two or three laps on the soft tire. The bike is so new that they simply haven't got around to spending much time working on qualifying.
The real story is a lot more complex than just the soft tire. It starts in FP4, when Marc Márquez realized that the Yamahas were still struggling to match race pace, but showing real signs of improvement. It was time to do something about that, and he decided to deploy a trick he picked up last year. The Repsol Honda man allowed both Pramac Ducatis to get into his draft, and towed them round to help their fast laps. His ploy paid off, though not entirely. Yonny Hernandez was catapulted up into fifth, but Danilo Petrucci got a little too close and was forced into mistakes. Petrucci ended up only ninth, losing out in the second half of the track. If he had got the last two sectors right, Petrucci could have been as high as fourth.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying at Qatar:
2015 Qatar MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Racing For Real, And The Strange Consequences Of Sponsorship Falling Through
When the flag drops, the speculation stops. Though usually, a rather more forthright word is used instead of speculation. After the long winter of testing, of trying to assess who was trying what on which lap to try to compare lap times, MotoGP is underway for real. Everyone on track is looking for race pace, and a fast lap to ensure they get into Q2. It is a whole lot easier to comprehend, and infinitely more thrilling.
Conditions had not looked promising ahead of practice. Strong winds blew down the front straight in the late afternoon, raising fears that they would coat the circuit in dust and sand. Then shortly before the action was due to kick off, a few drops of rain started falling, threatening to at least delay proceedings should it continue. But the wind dropped and the rain stopped, and the 2015 MotoGP season got underway as planned.
Fears about the track were unfounded, lap times quickly heading towards something resembling race pace. Danny Kent's fastest lap in Moto3 was seven tenths off the lap record in the first session of the day, and when Moto2 hit the track, Sam Lowes set about destroying the existing pole record, becoming the first ever Moto2 rider to break the two minute barrier at the circuit. In MotoGP, Marc Márquez was lapping a few tenths off lap record pace, a record still held by Casey Stoner from 2008.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Qatar:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the second day of testing at Qatar:
Press releases at the end of the second test at Sepang:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the second day of testing at Sepang:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of testing at Sepang:
The 2015 MotoGP season kicks off tomorrow. On Wednesday, the riders take to the track once again at Sepang to continue the development on the bikes they will be racing this year, and to test out the new updates the engineers have been working on during the winter break.
And yet the two most important and interesting developments won't even be at the first Sepang test. Ducati's much-anticipated Desmosedici GP15 is not quite ready for prime time, and so will not make its public debut until 19th February at the launch in Bologna, and not make its first laps in public until the second Sepang test at the end of this month. Yamaha's fully seamless gearbox – allowing both clutchless upshifts and downshifts – will also wait until Sepang 2 before Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo get their hands on the bike.
The official reasons given for the delay are that the GP15 and Yamaha's gearbox are almost ready, but not quite, still needing a few last checks by the engineers before they are ready to be handed over to the factory riders. Those of a cynical – or perhaps even paranoid – bent may be tempted to speculate that the delays are more to do with the media than the engineering. The first Sepang test this week is well-attended by journalists and photographers alike, the MotoGP press just as eager as the riders and the fans for the winter to be over.
The second Sepang test sees only a very few journalists attend, with few publications willing to spend the money to cover the expenses for what is often just more of the same. Perhaps the factories have cottoned on to this, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to test important new parts with a little less media attention. Or perhaps it really is just a case of not being quite ready in time.
Despite the absence of the really big news, there will still be plenty to see. So who will be testing what, and what are the key factors to keep an eye on?
With the MotoGP test at Sepang due to start on Wednesday, the first preview press releases are starting to trickle in. Today, Suzuki and Marc VDS issued their previews, while Pramac Racing issued a press release containing an interview with team manager Francesco Guidotti. The press releases appear below:
SUZUKI MOTOGP BEGINS 2015 TESTING AT SEPANG
Team Suzuki Press Office – January 31.
SUZUKI MotoGP begins 2015 pre-season tests at Sepang in Malaysia next week in preparation for its return to the premier class of motorcycle racing at Losail, Qatar on March 29th.
Despite a forced winter testing ban, new team riders Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales, plus Suzuki’s factory technicians, have been hard at work training and continuing development of the 2015 GSX-RR MotoGP machine that the young Spaniards will race in the 18-round series.
The official four-day test at the 5,543m Sepang International Circuit, 60km south of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, will see all the 2015 MotoGP factory teams together on track for the first time between February 4-7th; and the first opportunity for Espargaro and Vinales to evaluate the new developments made to the GSX-RR at Suzuki’s development centre in Ryuyo in Japan since the previous tests in November.
Yonny Hernandez is to miss the first Sepang test. The Colombian rider crashed while riding dirt track, falling heavily on his left shoulder, and dislocating the shoulder. As a result, Hernandez will not be able to ride at Sepang, and will be replaced by Ducati's test rider, Michele Pirro.
The good news for the Pramac Ducati rider is that the damage was mainly microfractures, and the ligaments and tendons were undamaged. The shoulder is a very complex joint, held together by a complicated network of tendons, cartilege and ligaments which allow it to move freely, but is vulnerable to damage. Damaging the connecting tissue in a shoulder can severely hamper riding ability and even end careers, as it did for Ben Spies. Hernandez' injury is nowhere near as severe, and should allow him to take part in the second test at Sepang.
The press release from Pramac Racing appears below:
Yonny Hernandez to miss Sepang 1 test due to shoulder injury
Pramac Racing announces that Yonny Hernandez can't participate for the Sepang test scheduled in February 4th to 7th.