2015 Sachsenring MotoGP Friday Round Up: Marquez Gets His Magic Back, Redding Learns That Relaxing Helps You Go Faster
It is a dangerous thing to write a rider off. We learned that with Valentino Rossi, the old man currently leading the championship after two terrible years at Ducati, one tough year at Yamaha and then the first sign of resurgence from the middle of 2014. Rossi adapted, learned, progressed, and came back stronger. After the first seven races of 2015, the wolf pack in the media center had written off Marc Márquez and HRC. The Honda RC213V was too aggressive an engine to be tamed by electronics, the chassis too stiff to contain the stampede of horsepower contained in the 90° V4. The bike span, wheelied, and worst of all, slid the rear wheel unpredictably when it touched down ready for braking into the corner. Márquez was trying, but perhaps a little too hard, riding every lap as if it was his one shot at pole, overloading the front tire to compensate for the lack of braking at the rear. Márquez was pushing his luck, and it kept running out during the race, the Repsol Honda man either finishing down the order, or ending up in the gravel once the front cried enough.
Márquez crashed out at Barcelona, but that crash did not tell the whole story. Márquez and his crew had made a step forward that allowed him to control the rear under braking a little better, taking the sharpest edge off the area where the Spaniard was suffering most. At Assen, they made another step forward, and for the first time this year, Márquez started to enjoy riding the bike again. He knew he could be competitive, making his disappointment at being beaten – and outsmarted – by Valentino Rossi all the greater. "The first target was to try to feel again that confidence with the bike," Márquez said after practice on Friday. "In Assen I did and I felt it well. Now the second target is win a race."
Two races ago, a bet against Márquez winning would have been a safe one to take. After two sessions of free practice at the Sachsenring, Márquez has once again assumed the mantle of favorite for victory. He was fastest in the morning with a consistent pace, but was downright intimidating in FP2. The gap may have been reduced from a third of a second to just a single tenth over the man in second place, but nobody has the pace of Márquez. The Repsol Honda rider hammered out nine laps of 1'21, more than all the other riders on the grid put together. His nearest rival in terms of consistency is his teammate, Dani Pedrosa, and Pedrosa could only string together three 1'21s.
"Honestly, I’m happy because it was a long time ago that I feel like this on the Friday," Márquez said. "In Assen I had that feeling with the bike but only in qualifying and on the race, but today from the beginning I feel good and this is important." The feeling was the same at Assen, the knowledge that he had better control over the bike. "I’m able to stop better the bike and I’m able to be more constant. The bike is less critical on the front. Then I’m able to be more constant in some laps. If I do some mistakes I can keep the line and this is important."
Mika Kalio saved his best for last to set the top time in the waning moments of the second free practice Friday at the Sachsenring circuit in Germany. Dominique Aegerter used late tow to grab second, just two-hundredths of a second behind Kalio's 1'25.069. Jonas Folger, who led much of the session, was dropped into third by Kallio's and Aegerter's late charges. Sandro Cortese held on for fourth while Sam Lowes -- fastest in the first free practice and still fastest in combined times -- took fifth.
FP2 was run in two segments after a red flag forced the riders to pit briefly. Rider Azlan Shah (15th) crashed hard late in the session and his bike came to a stop in the middle of the track. After the bike was cleared, the final six minutes of practice resumed.
Sam Lowes has topped the first session of free practice for the Moto2 class. The Englishman has a new Speed Up chassis at the Sachsenring, and immediately put it to good effect, constantly being at or near the top of the timesheets. A final push took him ahead of Johann Zarco and back to top spot. Takaaki Nakagami also sneaked ahead of Zarco, the Japanese rider having a good weekend so far in Germany. Zarco took 3rd, just a tenth behind Lowes, and a couple of hundredths behind Tito Rabat, the reigning Moto2 champion finishing 4th despite having had surgery to plate his broken collarbone earlier this week.
Previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
Tito Rabat has broken his right collarbone in a training crash at Almeria. The reigning Moto2 champion was riding at Almeria, as is his custom, and suffered an (unspecified) mechanical failure while braking for Turn 1. He fell, shattering his right collarbone.
Rabat was flown to Barcelona that evening, where he was operated on by Dr. Xavier Mir. Dr. Mir inserted a titanium plate to fix the collarbone. Rabat expects to be fit enough to race at the Sachsenring next weekend.
Though the break is unfortunate for Rabat, the timing of the crash could have been worse. The Marc VDS rider currently trails the championship leader Johann Zarco by 45 points, and Rabat cannot afford to miss any races. Though Rabat will not be at full strength at the Sachsenring, the circuit only features two strong braking zones, and is mostly left-hand corners. After the Sachsenring, Rabat has four weeks to recover until the next round at Indianapolis.
Below is theepress release issued by the Marc VDS team after the incident:
Rabat breaks collarbone in training crash
Barcelona, Spain – 5 July 2015: Tito Rabat has undergone surgery after fracturing his collarbone in a training accident on Saturday.
You would think with the deluge of words which has washed over the incident between Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi in the last corner (and to which I contributed more than my fair share, I must confess) that there were only two riders and one race at Assen on Saturday. Beyond the clash at the GT chicane, there was much more to talk about after Holland.
Whatever the immediate aftermath of the clash between Márquez and Rossi, the longer term implications of the result have made the championship even more interesting. Márquez' decision to switch back to the 2014 chassis for his Repsol Honda RC213V has been proven to be the correct one. Though the engine is still as aggressive as ever, the old chassis in combination with the new swingarm and new forks tested at Le Mans has made the bike much more manageable. Márquez can now slide the rear on corner entry in a much more controlled way than before, taking away the behavior the reigning champion has struggled with most. The Spaniard showed he could be competitive from the start of the race to the end, instead of crashing out as the tires started to go off.
The bike is still a long way from cured, however. Márquez switched to the medium front tire rather than the soft, the only rider to do so. The medium provides a bit more support under braking, compensating for the reduced braking from the rear wheel. That support comes at the cost of extra grip provided by the softer front. Whether Márquez will be able to employ that same strategy for the rest of the season remains to be seen. For a start, Assen is not a very typical track, featuring a lot more flowing corners than usual. At circuits with more corners needing hard braking, the challenge will be greater. The next race is at the Sachsenring, where asymmetric front tires will be on offer. How the Honda deals with that will be interesting.
A more competitive Márquez will certainly liven the championship up. After Lorenzo swept the previous four races, a Rossi comeback gave him back the advantage in the championship. Without Márquez, Rossi would only have extended his lead by five more points, but the Repsol Honda man put himself between the two Movistar Yamaha teammates, meaning that Lorenzo's deficit grew to ten points. With ten races to go, the championship is still wide open, though realistically, it is only between Rossi and Lorenzo. But the influence of a rider who is consistently capable of inserting himself between the two Yamahas could end up having a major effect on the championship.
The Leopard Racing team today announced that they have signed Joan Mir to race for them in Moto3 in 2016. The 18-year-old Spaniard is currently racing in the FIM CEV series, the former Spanish championship, for the Leopard Racing junior team, and has impressed in the class winning two races already this season. Before switching to the CEV, Mir raced in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, where he was regarded as one of the stronger competitors.
With Mir moving up to Moto3, it is looking increasingly likely that the Leopard Racing team will expand their program to move up to Moto2. Current Moto3 championship leader Danny Kent has expressed an interest in returning to Moto2, but only wishes to do so with a strong team. The Leopard Racing team run by Stefan Kiefer has proved to be exactly that, and if the team can move up as a unit, then Kent should have a better shot at handling the transition than during his first attempt with the Tech 3 squad. Familiar surroundings and a strong bike package would make Kent competitive.
The switch to Moto2 is still a long way from being confirmed. At the moment, the budget for 2016 is under discussion, any decision can only be taken once funding for the project has been decided.
Below is the press release issued by Leopard Racing announcing the signing of Joan Mir:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Saturday's races at Assen:
The Moto2 race was red flagged before the first lap was completed as Luis Salom clipped the back of Ant West's bike and tumbled off track, cracking its right crankcase, spilling oil all over the place and ignominiously catching fire. The restart would be 16 laps.
Jeremy Burgess was famous for finding that special something on Sunday morning that gave Valentino Rossi the edge in the race in the afternoon. It is a tradition carried on by Silvano Galbusera, who has replaced Burgess since the start of the 2014 season. Galbusera, too, always seems to find that extra little tweak during warm up that makes the difference between cruising in fourth or finishing on the podium, and even on the top step. The fact that it has continued since Burgess' departure suggests that the tweaks were very much a collaborative effort, with input coming from his data engineers and mechanics, as well as the rider himself, of course.
Two weeks ago in Barcelona, Rossi's team appeared to have found something extra special. For it did not just work on the Sunday in Catalonia, taking Rossi from the third row all the way up to 2nd, but it has even carried through to Assen, some 1600km further north. Rossi was quick from the moment he rolled out of pit lane for the first time at Assen, and has been at or near the top of the timesheets ever since. In this form, Rossi may well have expected to have been on the front row, but he went better than that. Putting in one of the best laps of his recent career with a couple of minutes to go, he simply hammered the opposition. As a sign of just how dominant he was at Assen, he led the second fastest man, Aleix Espargaro, by nearly a quarter of a second. The next quarter of a second difference covers second place to eleventh, from Aleix Espargaro to Danilo Petrucci. It is incredibly close at Assen, except at the front. One man reigns supreme.
Tito Rabat, current Moto2 world champion, went into the session having gone two tenths of a second quicker than anyone else, with only Xavier Simeon and Johann Zarco within half a second. Conditions were dry and clear.