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 teams after the first day of practice at Qatar:
Miguel Oliveira dominated the second session of free practice for the Moto3 session. The Portuguese rider led by nearly half a second for most of the session, the chasing pack only closing the gap as the session wound down, only for Oliveira to open a gap again at the end.
Niccolo Antonelli ended the day in 2nd, just under two tenths behind Oliveira, with Isaac Viñales taking 3rd, over six tenths slower than the Red Bull KTM rider. Romano Fenati showed good pace in the second session, ending in 5th ahead of the deeply impressive Fabio Quartararo, the French rookie living up to expectations. Livio Loi was 7th fastest on the RW Racing Honda, just edging out Danny Kent, who had led FP1. Efren Vazquez and Jorge Navarro rounded out the top 10.
Danny Kent has drawn first blood of the 2015 season, topping the first session of free practice for the Moto3 class. Kent used a handy slipstream from Romano Fenati to just pip Miguel Oliveira at the very end of the session.
Oliveira ended the session in 2nd, after having led the way for most of it, Kent moving from six tenths behind Oliveira to a tenth of a second ahead of the Red Bull KTM rider. Niccolo Antonelli moved up to set the 3rd fastest time, getting ahead of Isaac Viñales. After a slow start, Brad Binder ended the session in 5th, while Jorge Navarro posted an impressive 6th fastest time on his first visit to the track.
There were impressive starts for two of the Moto3 rookies in FP1. Red Bull Rookie champion Jorge Martin ended the session in 8th, 1.5 seconds behind Kent, while Fabio Quartararo finished in 14th spot, 1.8 seconds slower than the leader Kent.
Press releases from the series organizers and from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's season opener at Qatar:
Estrella Galicia Press Release: Fabio Quartararo - "The main obstacle will be learning the new tracks and adapting quickly to them"
Fabio Quartararo is Moto3's hottest property. The Estrella Galicia 0,0 team issued the following press release, containing an interview with the French youngster, ahead of his debut in the Grand Prix paddock this weekend:
Interview with Fabio Quartararo
"The main obstacle will be learning the new tracks and adapting quickly to them”
Fabio Quartaro will make his debut at Qatar aged 15, as the champion of the FIM CEV. The rookie has won two national titles in Spain, and comes into the campaign off the back of an excellent preseason.
You won the FIM CEV in 2013 and 2014, you tested a Grand Prix bike in preseason last year and in 2015 you debut in the World Championship. It has been a very quick process. What do you expect to encounter in the World Championship?
"Above all I hope to have a good pace and have some great battles. It is something that we saw in the 2014 World Championship, at races such as Mugello and Brno, which were very hard fought. That's something I missed last year, so now I can’t wait to fight with the World Championship riders."
Did you feel you had already outgrown the FIM CEV and it was time to make the leap to the World Championship?
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.
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.
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