Sam Lowes continues to reign supreme in the Moto2 class at Qatar, leading the second session of free practice almost from the start and never being challenged. The Speed Up rider could not quite get under the two minute mark in FP2, but he was once again under Tito Rabat's pole record from last year.
Reigning champion Rabat ended the day second, a third of a second behind Lowes, and ahead of Johann Zarco this time. Axel Pons set the 4th fastest time, another third of a second behind Zarco, and over a second behind the pace of Lowes. Pons heads up a large group of close riders, with Taka Nakagami, Tom Luthi, Sandro Cortese and Xavier Simeon separated by tenth of a second, and Alex Rins another two tenths behind in 9th. Rins was once again impressive, faster than both his teammate Luis Salom, and the reigning Moto3 champion and former teammate Alex Marquez. Marquez ended down in 18th.
Sam Lowes has smashed the existing Moto2 pole record in Qatar, becoming the first man to lap the Losail circuit in under two minutes on a Moto2 bike. Lowes ended the session six tenths of a second ahead of Johann Zarco, while reigning Moto2 champion Tito Rabat took 3rd.
Lowes and Zarco dominated the first session of practice for Moto2, sharing the lead for most of FP1 with exactly the same time. With five minutes to go, Zarco finally took a lead, only to see Lowes smash his time on his very last lap. Rabat was a comfortable 3rd, but could not match the pace of the two leaders.
Tom Luthi finished FP1 in 4th, the Swiss rider nearly 1.6 seconds behind the time set by Lowes, and nearly a second behind Zarco. Times were much closer behind Luthi: Jonas Folger was a tenths slower in 5th, while Sandro Cortese, Franco Morbidelli, Ant West, Alex Rins and Julian Simon were separated by just a quarter of a second. Rins' 9th time marked the best of rookie performances in the Moto2 class, while reigning Moto3 champ Alex Marquez struggled with mechanical issues, only managing the 18th best time.
Press releases from the series organizers and from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's season opener at Qatar:
Poor weather continued at Jerez on the final day of testing for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, with high winds and rain lashing the circuit. The weather limited action on the track, many teams preferring to sit out the day rather than risk injury or severe material damage with less than a week to go to the start of the 2015 season.
A couple of heavy crashes by riders who did choose to ride rather proved their point. Tito Rabat crashed heavily, destroying his Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Moto2 machine and leaving his mechanics with a lot of work to do to get the bike ready to ship to Qatar. But Rabat was lucky, he walked away with just bumps and bruises from the crash. Ana Carrasco was less lucky in Moto3, the RBA Racing Team rider falling and breaking her collarbone. Carrasco may still be fit in time for Qatar, as she will not need surgery on the collarbone, but it is far from ideal preparation.
The poor weather saw Marcel Schrotter end the day as fastest Moto2 rider, lapping nearly a second quicker than Julian Simon on the QMMF Speed up, and Mika Kallio on the Italtrans Kalex. In the Moto3 class, Jakub Kornfeil ended the day with the fastest time, the SIC KTM rider ending ahead of Spanish rookie Jorge Martin on the Aspar Mahindra, and Niccolo Antonelli on the Ongetta Honda.
The weather has not been kind to the Moto2 and Moto3 classes at their last preseason test of 2015. Intermittent rain, some of it very heavy, has severely limited action on the first two days of the test. Even when there have been dry spells, the track has only been completely dry for relatively short periods of time. Miss those dry windows of opportunity, and you miss out on dry practice.
Speed Up rider Sam Lowes has had the best of conditions, the track drying out towards the end of the first Moto2 session on Wednesday morning, though Lowes is still a couple of seconds off lap record pace. Jonas Folger set the 2nd fastest time, but was over a second slower, edging Tom Luthi into 3rd.
In the Moto3 class, it was Jorge Navarro who made best use of the dry line which the second session started with on Wednesday, ending nearly three quarters of a second faster than Danny Kent, who was in turn over a tenth faster than Navarro's teammate Fabio Quartararo. Jorge Martin was the first non-Honda in 4th on the Mahindra, while Isaac Viñales put the Husqvarna (a rebadged KTM) into 6th, behind Enea Bastianini.
Dunlop issued the following press release, previewing the final test of the 2015 preseason for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes:
Dunlop’s Moto2 Countdown to 2015 – 4-3-2-1………
With just one test remaining before the 2015 Moto2 and Moto3 seasons get underway, Dunlop riders are getting close to ready for more FIM Moto World Championship wheel to wheel track action. The latest tests for both Moto2 and Moto3 show that times could well be slashed compared to 2014.
Riders have had the chance to give the 2015 tyre specifications a thorough workout. February saw Moto2 and Moto3 testing at Valencia and Jerez with the fastest times breaking all four circuit lap records. The closest times were for Moto3 in Valencia where the top 14 riders, over the three days, were separated by less than one second. The top performers on both tracks were Moto3’s Fabio Quartararo and Johann Zarco in Moto2.
It has been a relatively quiet week in the world of motorcycle racing, with much of the focus on preparations for 2015 rather than actual on-track action. The past week has seen riders spending more time on stage than on track, as many teams have presented their 2015 racing programs. This is but the calm before the storm, however: from Saturday, there is another bumper period of world championship action, with MotoGP testing at Qatar from 14th-16th March, Moto2 hitting Jerez from 17th-19th, followed by the second round of World Superbikes at the Chang circuit in Thailand from 20th-22nd.
There have been some bikes from other series circulating in the past week, however. The British BSB series has been testing in Spain, the MXGP championship has raced in Thailand, two weeks ahead of the World Superbike series' first visit to the country, and in the US, Florida is gearing up for the Daytona 200.
A piece of history?
That race will be a rather peculiar affair. When Daytona Motorsports Group lost the contract to run the AMA road racing series, tough negotations began with MotoAmerica, the new sanctioning body for AMA. The DMG overestimated their bargaining position, and MotoAmerica were happy to pass up on the Daytona 200. Once a historic event with a big name line up, the race has slipped gradually into international obscurity and domestic impopularity.
The Forward racing team launched their 2015 MotoGP and Moto3 campaigns on Monday, and issued the following press release after the occasion:
Athinà Eyewear with Forward Racing in MotoGP and Moto2
The Gattopardo café hosted yesterday night in Milan the presentation of Athinà Forward Racing Team that will compete in the MotoGP and Moto2 World Championships this year.
Athinà Eyewear, a young Swiss startup owned by AF Invest Group will participate in MotoGP alongside Forward Racing with ambitious goals: winning the title in the MotoGP Open category in and fight with the top team in Moto2.
Stefan Bradl, former Moto2 world champion, and rookie Loris Baz will be riding the title-winning Yamaha Open bike. Simone Corsi, returning after last season injury, will be pairing-up in Moto2 with the young rider Lorenzo Baldassarri from VR46 Academy.
One of the greatest mysteries surrounding the Circuit of Wales is exactly where the funding for the project is due to come from. The ambitious project to build a circuit in the Blaenau Gwent region of South Wales will need some £325 million to complete it entirely, with around £200 million to come from private investors, the rest to come from public funds. Though the Circuit of Wales has had plenty of headlines, there has been little word of any private investors putting any actual money into the project.
The Estrella Galicia 0,0 team issued the following press release today, after the launch of their assault on the Spanish CEV championship, Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP:
Estrella Galicia 0,0 launch most complete project in MotoGP World Championship
The Estrella Galicia 0,0 riders today unveiled the liveries with which they will compete across every World Championship, Spanish Pre-Moto3 (RFME) and Moto3 Junior World Championship class.
The 2015 season will be a milestone for Estrella Galicia 0,0, representing the starting point of an ambitious project focused on motorcycle racing from grassroots level to the elite.
The union between Galicia 0,0, Monlau Repsol Technical School and Marc VDS has formed a competitive structure with new riders who will take their first steps in the Spanish Pre-Moto3 Championship (RFME) and Moto3 Junior Championship, established talents with titles in Moto3 and Moto2 at World Championship level, and a MotoGP team led by Scott Redding.
In Moto3, Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 will field Fabio Quartararo, who at just 15 years of age has already won two titles in the FIM CEV Repsol. Alongside him is Jorge Navarro, who finished runner-up to Quartararo in 2014.
After the burst of activity leading up to last week, things have once again calmed down in the world of international motorcycle racing. Neither MotoGP nor World Superbikes are testing – though BSB are preparing for their season by testing in Spain – and as a consequence, news is thin on the ground. But not completely absent, so here is our weekly round up of what is happening in MotoGP and WSBK. And in this case, further abroad.
Casey Stoner to make a sort of return?
The fact that Casey Stoner spent a few days lapping at Sepang at the request of HRC came as no surprise. Stoner is, after all, a fully paid-up Honda test rider, and has been put to work to help develop the Honda RC213V for this year and next. When HRC issued a press release casually mentioning that Stoner had put in a few laps on the Suzuka 8 Hour CBR1000RR endurance bike, that raised an eyebrow.
The Misano World Circuit is to be completely resurfaced. Under the direction of Studio Dromo, the engineering and circuit designing firm run by Jarno Zaffelli, the track is to receive a new layer of asphalt, especially formulated to cope with the stresses of both world championship racing and exposure to the salt sea air which blows in from the Adriatic coast. The work is due to continue until 10th March, and Studio Dromo issued the following press release describing the work in detail.
MISANO WORLD CIRCUIT: NEW ASPHALT FOR THE INTERNATIONAL RACETRACK
Works of resurfacing of 4,226 meters on the international circuit has started.
The project and site engineering is from designer Jarno Zaffelli, owner of the studio Dromo. The works will be done by specialized company Pesaresi SpA in Rimini using feeders technologies for the very first time in Italy.
Misano World Circuit, March, 1st, 2015 – Technology and safety characterize the intervention that the property of the Misano World Circuit, the Santa Monica SpA, decided to carry on the eve of the 2015 sport season. It's been a few days that the Works of complete resurfacing of the circuit has started, and they will continue - weather permitting - until March 10.
Press releases after the three-day test at Jerez for the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
Moto2 times from the last day of testing
Improving weather saw lap times drop at Jerez, allowing lap records to fall in both Moto2 and Moto3 classes. In Moto2, it was Sam Lowes setting the pace, the Speed Up rider knocking four tenths of a second off Mika Kallio's pole record. Lowes spent most of the day using the carbon fiber swing arm the team used last year, with the aluminum swing arm still to be tried. The aluminum item is believed to be the better of the two, offering more improvement to come when the team gets a chance to try it out.
Behind Lowes, several riders made some big steps forward. Luis Salom finally beat his rookie teammate, ending the day in 2nd just a tenth behind Lowes. Johann Zarco remains fast, ending up 3rd and ahead of reigning Moto2 champion Tito Rabat, while Axel Pons had a good day to end 5th. Three tenths separated the top five, offering prospects of a very competitve season in 2015. Revelation of yesterday Alex Rins had a steadier day today, dropping down the order to finish 9th, while Alex Marquez showed good improvement, jumping up to 12th place, a second off the pace of Lowes, and just behind Mika Kallio. The battle between the two Alexes promises to be just as good as it was in Moto3.