Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races at Motegi:
2015 Motegi Saturday Round Up: The Key To Rossi's Qualifying, The Perils Of Data Sharing, And Fast Fenati, Finally
Has Valentino Rossi finally mastered qualifying? The Italian has struggled since the format changed, from the extended hour of qualifying which started out as free practice and ended up as an all-out time attack, to the frenetic fifteen-minute dash for pole. His biggest problem, he always explained, was getting up to speed from the start: leaving pit lane and going flat out from the very first meters. He had spent a lifetime slowly sidling up to a blistering lap, rather than getting the hammer down as soon as the lights changed. The switch from an analog to a binary format had been hard to swallow. Millions of older fans sympathized, as they faced the same struggle in their own lives.
Lorenzo, on the other hand, has thrived in the new format, having learned the skill while doing battle with Casey Stoner. The Australian's greatest legacy was his ability to go as fast as possible the moment he left the pit lane. I was once told by Cristian Gabarrini, Stoner's crew chief, that when they looked at his sector times, they would see that he had set his fastest sector times on his out lap. To beat Stoner, Lorenzo had to learn to emulate him. That ability has benefited him twofold: firstly, in the new qualifying format, he can put the hammer down right out of pit lane, without any mental preparation for speed. Secondly, Lorenzo has been able to convert those pole positions into a lot of wins by being able to blast off the line and into the lead before the first corner, then open a gap which his pursuers can never bridge.
That blistering speed has given Lorenzo an added advantage in qualifying. By having the pace to push from the start, he cuts vital seconds from the out lap. Those seconds add up, and can under some circumstances mean the difference between managing to get in for two stops, and being forced to make do with a single stop. There are upsides and downsides to both approaches: more stops means you need more tires, both front and rear, to be able to extract the maximum lap time. You have no time to make set up adjustments, and you are usually forced into swapping bikes as well, something riders often do not like as the two bikes can feel slightly different.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Motegi:
Results and summary of the Moto2 qualifying session:
Alex Rins cleared away from the pack in FP3 Saturday by nearly four-tenths of a second to set the fastest time in the final free practice before qualifying. The Moto2 rookie's 1'50.909 put him .369 ahead of newly crowned champion Johann Zarco and nearly half a second in front of Sandro Cortese (3rd).
Rins was the sole rider to dip into the 1'50s. He was consistently quick all session. He currently sits third in the championship but a win Sunday, coupled with Tito Rabat's withdrawl, would put him in second place by three points.
Thomas Luthi took fourth, just in front of Jonas Folger (5th) and Sam Lowes (6th). The top eleven riders were separated by a second.
2015 Motegi Friday Round Up: The Key To Zarco's Title, Lorenzo's Strong Shoulder, And The Threat From The Ducatis
It's only Friday, but already, one championship has been decided. Tito Rabat's mission to outscore Johann Zarco was tough enough before he crashed at Almeria and broke his wrist, but trying to handle the immense braking stresses of the Japanese circuit with a freshly plated radius proved too much to ask. Rabat's attempt was brave, but ultimately doomed to failure. After riding in FP1, Rabat realized that it wasn't so much the pain, but rather a lack of strength in the arm needed to control the bike safely. Forced to withdraw, Rabat's title defense came to an end, and Johann Zarco became the 2015 Moto2 World Champion.
It was a rather bewildered Zarco who faced the press later on Friday. His mind was still focused on Sunday's race, rather than on becoming champion. He could barely comprehend that he had already won the title. Mentally, he had prepared to celebrate on Sunday, after the race, so the title had come unexpectedly early. It did not put him off his stride, however. Zarco was twelve thousandths slower than Tom Luthi in FP1, and nineteen thousandths faster than Alex Rins in FP2. He remains the man to beat in Moto2, exactly as he has been all year.
Zarco is a truly deserving champion. He has dominated the Moto2 class all year, despite getting off to a rocky start – and almost disastrously smashing into the pit wall along Qatar's front straight, as he tried to fix a gear lever which had worked loose. He took over the lead in the championship in Argentina, taking the first of six wins so far this year, and held on to it through sheer consistency. Since the second race of the year at Austin, Zarco has been off the podium only once, struggling to sixth at Aragon, the first signs he was starting to feel the pressure as he had his first theoretical chance to lift the Moto2 crown.
The withdrawal of Tito Rabat from the Motegi round of Moto2, suffering a lack of strength in the arm he broke in a training accident last week, removed the last obstacle between Johann Zarco and the 2015 Moto2 world championship. With a 78-point lead over Rabat and the Spaniard unable to score any more points, Zarco will leave Motegi with an unassailable lead. With his crown secured, Dorna and his Ajo Racing team put out the following press releases celebrating Zarco's 2015 Moto2 title.
2015 Moto2 World Champion
It's been a long road for Johann Zarco, but the Japanese GP sees him become the 2015 Moto2™ World Champion.
Johann Zarco took his first steps towards a life filled with racing when he began racing minibikes in Italy, finishing second overall in 2005 and 2006. He joined the Red Bull Rookies Cup during its inaugural year in 2007 and became their first champion with four victories and seven podiums in eight races. Two years later, the pilot from Cannes, France made his debut in the 125cc World Championship with the WTR San Marino Team where he ended the year in 20th position, improving to 11th the following year.
In 2011 the Frenchman evolved, jumping to the Avant AirAsia Ajo Derbi team and conquering ten podiums together, pushing for the 125cc title till the end. In Motegi, just four races from the end of the year, Zarco took a career first victory but in the end finished second to Spaniard Nico Terol in the championship. His solid performance granted him 262 championship points and also earned him a ride in the Moto2™ World Championship with Team JiR in 2012.
Press releases from the teams after the first day of practice at Motegi:
Perhaps that weight off Johann Zarco's shoulders improved his bike setup.
The season's six-time race winner set FP2's fastest practice time shortly after being told he was the 2015 Moto2 champion as a result of Tito Rabat withdrawing from the race. Rabat's withdrawal after a handful of practice laps -- he didn't have sufficent strength in the left arm he broke in a training accident -- meant the Spaniard's distant mathematical chance of defending his 2014 championship evaporated.
And it meant Zarco was the rare rider to become champion during a practice session.
Alex Rins finished second-fastest less than a tenth behind Zarco. Thomas Luthi, fifth in the championship, managed third, nearly two-tenths behind the new champion.
Thomas Luthi just pipped championship leader Johann Zarco to set the fastest time in FP1 Friday at the Motegi curcuit in Japan. With just a handful of minutes to go, Luthi at 1'51.556 clipped Zarco's class-leading time by 12-hundredths of a second. Sandro Cortese grabbed third in the session.
Zarco, who needs onyl three points to clinch the 2015 championship, finished well ahead of his only remaining mathematical rival Tito Rabat, who ended his session early because of injury. After the session, his team decided he will not race at Motegi.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's race at Motegi:
And so the most crucial part of the season begins. Although you could justifiably make the argument that every race is equally important, the three flyaways to the Pacific rim often punch well above their weight in terms of determining the outcome of the championships. If riders haven't all but wrapped up the title before heading East for the triple header at Motegi, Phillip Island and Sepang, then events can throw a real spanner in the works of a title fight. These are three grueling weeks of racing under any circumstances; throw in the pressure of a championship battle and mistakes are easily made.
The first challenge the riders face is the sheer amount of travel it takes to get from one race to the next. First, they must spend at least 18 hours on planes and at airports traveling from Europe to Tokyo. They face a further two hour drive to get to Motegi, and unless they are well-paid enough to be staying at the circuit hotel, will have a 50-minute commute into the circuit every day ahead of the race. On Sunday night or Monday morning, they return to Tokyo for another 10-hour flight (or longer, if they can't fly direct) to Melbourne, and a drive down to Phillip Island. A week later, another flight to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, this time an 8-hour flight. After the Sepang round, they finally get to head home, another 17+ hour return flight back to Europe, and a week to rest up ahead of the final round of the season at Valencia. They travel from a wet and humid Motegi, to the chill of Phillip Island's early spring, to the sweltering tropical heat of Sepang.
Motorcycle racers are hyperactive at the best of times, so getting them to sit still for the best part of a day is not easy. The Japanese manufacturers – a group including Bridgestone, also based in Japan – want to take full advantage of the presence of their top riders in Asia, and so they get taken on whirlwind tours of factories, headquarters, and as a bonus, a trip to key markets such as Indonesia or Thailand. For riders such as Cal Crutchlow and Nicky Hayden, used to spending upwards of 3 hours on a bicycle every day, their training routine is destroyed. Those who prefer training on a motorcycle, such as Valentino Rossi or Marc Márquez, do not fare any better. They might get some time in a gym, but suffering massive jet lag, in a confusing environment where they can understand very little of the language, and surrounded by strange food, it is much more difficult to maintain focus. In a sport where attention to detail has become ever more important, the smallest mistake can be ruinous. It is no wonder that titles can go astray overseas.