Who starts the 2015 MotoGP season as favorite for the championship? The final test at Qatar will give us a much clearer picture of where the factories and riders stand than the last two tests in Sepang. That is in part due to the fact that the factories have had time between the Sepang tests and now to work on further refining their bikes ready for the start of 2015.
But the Qatar test is also a little more representative for the rest of the season than Sepang is. The Malaysian circuit may have a good mix of fast and slow corners, but the tropical heat makes it tough on riders, tough on tires, and the track can lose a lot of grip as the temperatures rise. Qatar may not have the fast corners which Sepang does, but much lower track temps make the circuit a lot less greasy than Sepang.
It helps if if the track is clean, though. Sat on the edge of a desert peninsula, dust and sand all too often blows across the circuit, playing havoc with grip levels. Reports from the recent Kawasaki H2 launch at the circuit suggest the track is not too dusty, and having hordes of journalists circulating on a bike with a nice fat rear tire should have swept most of the dust from the circuit.
The other danger is the chance of dew forming on the track, a problem as the night draws on. The problem is that the dew on the track is impossible to see, meaning riders find themselves tumbling through the gravel wondering what just happened. Testing at least offers some way of avoiding the track once the dew settles, but the trick is not to get caught out in the first place.
Press releases from Suzuki Ecstar and Estrella Galicia Marc VDS ahead of this weekend's MotoGP test at Qatar:
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.
Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano has big shoes to fill. Taking over from Gigi Dall'Igna, Albesiano must continue the legacy of success which his predecessor left for him. He got off to a good start, Sylvain Guintoli lifting the World Superbike title in Albesiano's first year at the helm. Now comes the hard part, following up on that success and expanding into MotoGP.
A small group of journalists spoke to Albesiano at the Aprilia launch in Milan. In a wide-ranging conversation, the Aprilia boss covered many topics, including explaining why the Noale firm came back to MotoGP a year ahead of schedule, touching on what the new bike Aprilia is working on for 2016 and beyond might look like, and the 2016 rules in MotoGP. Albesiano also talked about the World Superbike season, the return of Troy Bayliss, and what it takes to be successful as a racer at this level. Finally, Albesiano discussed the future of two stroke engines, and whether he could see them making a return to racing.
Q: Aprilia has some ambitious plans for 2015?
Romano Albesiano: I think it's very clear from the presence here. We race in all the top categories, big bikes everywhere. But the main project is to develop this MotoGP target, that's the main point.
Q: The objective for this year is to focus on development, preparing for 2016?
RA: Yes, sure. We need to be realistic. We cannot expect big results this year. But we also don't want to be on the last row! But you need to be somewhere and fight with the good guys in order to check your level, to stress your people, to stress the parts, to make progress quicker than any other way.
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.
Alvaro Bautista is a much happier man than he has been for a few years. Now a factory rider once again, he has found new motivation, despite knowing that there is along road ahead to make the Aprilia RS-GP a competitive machine. At the official launch of Aprilia's MotoGP, World Superbike and FIM Superstock projects in Milan, I spoke to Bautista about the progress Aprilia have made during testing, his experience of the bike so far, and his expectations for 2015.
Q: How has the progress been between the two tests?
Alvaro Bautista: Progress is quite good. Not a big step, but we did a step forward. Especially on the electronics, because the first test, the electronics were a bit inconsistent. So we spent one day just to adjust the electronics. Still it's not perfect, but we did a small improvement. Then once we decided the frame we will race for the start of the season, we already decided this in the first test. On the second day of the last test we tried different settings of the bike, we changed basically all of the bike to see if something is good or not, or what can help us or not. So it was not really a good day, because we didn't find anything, but we had to try. In the last day, it was good because we started with our base setting, then we make a long run. I was quite happy because I did it in the worst conditions, it was 3pm, so it was hot conditions, but I felt so good. The rhythm was quite good. My feeling on the bike on the long run was comfortable. So I think the only real step we did was with the electronics.
Just a few hours after Aprilia and Estrella Galicia Marc VDS unveiled their 2015 bikes, it was the turn of Suzuki. In Japan, the factory unveiled their 2015 livery, featuring sponsorship by ECSTAR, the Suzuki-owned brand of lubricants. The press release, including photos and videos, appears below:
Suzuki unveils its MotoGP team name as Team SUZUKI ECSTAR
Team Suzuki Press Office - March 6.
ECSTAR, the global umbrella brand of Suzuki genuine oil/ chemical products.
Suzuki Motor Corporation has unveiled its MotoGP team name as Team SUZUKI ECSTAR. Suzuki will come back to the MotoGP class of the world’s top motorcycle racing series, the FIM* Road Racing Grand Prix (MotoGP), from 2015. The 2015 season will start from the Qatar GP, which will hold its race on 29 March, 2015.
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.
Aprilia issued the following press release and official photos of their 2015 MotoGP bike after the launch in Milan:
MOTOGP, APRILIA'S NEW CHALLENGE
Milan, 5 March 2015 – Aprilia's new challenge is called MotoGP, the top world motorcycle racing category.
This is a Championship the Italian brand decided to return to in the 2015 season, moving the début up a year with respect to the initial plans. This is a brave choice, in line with the character of one of the most victorious racing divisions in history. In fact, in its brief history in motorsports - from 1992 to 2014, Aprilia has managed to win an impressive 54 world title wreaths, 28 of which were earned from 2006 to the present, after joining the Piaggio Group. The Manufacturer from also Noale skilfully demonstrated its competitiveness in the Superbike challenge, where it quickly became a genuine dominator, earning an impressive seven world titles in the last five years.
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.
MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Rubber and robbery
Many of you probably already know something about bike racing’s greatest story of industrial espionage, when East German Ernst Degner defected through the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War, carrying with him MZ’s hard-won two-stroke secrets. Degner sold MZ’s knowhow to the struggling Suzuki factory, which went on to win its first GP victories and first World Championship the very next year.
For all we know, stuff like this happens all the time; we just don’t get to hear about it. But we did get to hear about something that happened 10 years ago in Ireland.
One of the more intriguing match ups of the 2015 MotoGP season is the battle between the two newcomers from the support classes. Maverick Viñales and Jack Miller are both close friends and fierce rivals, sharing a motorhome off the track, doing battle on it. Viñales has come to MotoGP early, after just a single year in Moto2, where he was very competitive within a short space of time. Miller has made an even bigger jump, skipping Moto2 altogether and heading straight to MotoGP from Moto3. It is a huge leap for the Australian, switching from a narrow, 55hp, 80kg razor of a bike to a 158kg, 250hp monster.
So how have they adapted? Though the two are only a few days apart in age, comparing their progress is fraught with difficulty. Viñales, riding the Suzuki GSX-RR for Suzuki, is on a factory prototype inside a factory team. Miller, on the other hand, is riding an Open class Honda RC213V-RS with the LCR team. Viñales has a large team surrounding him, with sufficient backing to act on his input. Miller has a much smaller group around him, though he has the excellent fortune to have Cristian Gabarrini as his crew chief, one of the very best in the business. But perhaps the biggest and most important difference is that Viñales has experience on a larger, heavier bike, having raced in Moto2 in 2014, while Miller has only ever raced a lightweight Moto3 machine.
Yet it is still possible to measure progress. By comparing the times they set during the two Sepang tests, and seeing how much quicker they got, and how much closer to the front, there is a glimpse of how the two riders are doing. Furthermore, if we compare their progress to the progress made by riders on the same machine as them, we get a better measure of how they are progressing.
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.
It has been a busy week for racing, with the World Superbike season opener at Phillip Island followed by the MotoGP test at Sepang, including the extra day of testing on Michelins. There has been a lot of news, but between MotoMatters.com's star WSBK reporter Jared Earle and I, we got most of it covered, with an extra bonus of photos from top Australian shooter Andrew Gosling.
But there have been one or two things we may have missed, so here's our weekly round up of racing news.
Scratching the itch: Young Gun vs Old Master
There were a lot of happy faces at the Australian round of World Superbikes. Troy Bayliss, three-time World Superbike champion and arguably, WSBK's last superstar, made a return to the series, replacing the injured Davide Giugliano on the Aruba.it Ducati Panigale. The replacement was at very short notice, Giugliano having crashed during the test which preceded the opening round and fractured a couple of vertebrae.