There is something about the sound of a MotoGP bike that stirs the blood once again. After a long winter, in which to reflect on the many negatives of following motorcycle racing – hard work for little money, endless trips through faceless airports to faceless hotels, and long periods away from home – a few milliseconds of the sound of a MotoGP bike being warmed up is enough to make you forget all that, and melt away the misery of business travel on the cheap under the fierce heat of passion for the sport. There is nothing that excites like motorcycle racing.
It was an intriguing first day back, with highs and lows, strong performers and real disappointments. The finishing order is not completely indicative of the real strength of the field, but it offers some sound clues as to who stands where.
Marc Márquez topped the timesheets, but he had to put in a fast lap on a new tire at the end of the day to depose the Yamahas. For it was Valentino Rossi who led the way for much of the first day of testing, the Italian happy to be back on a bike. It wasn't just Rossi who was quick: Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Tech 3's Pol Espargaro were the fastest of the bunch, with Márquez and Dani Pedrosa only occasionally interjecting to spoil the Yamaha fun.
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.
On your marks, get set, test!
This is your early season wake-up call. Yes, in case you didn’t already know it, 2015 MotoGP testing began earlier today at Sepang. While I and many of you shivered over our porridge in Europe, Marc Márquez and the rest were turning sweaty laps in Malaysia’s tropical heat.
All the factories are there. This is the way it is nowadays, with the top teams almost always testing side by side to save costs. Money is saved, but secrecy is lost: riders can watch and learn from their rivals and engineers can spy on other machines while dissecting their lap times and split times to the nth degree. There are no secrets anymore.
Marc Marquez finished the day at the top of the timesheets, after pushing hard at the end with a new tire. That put Marquez ahead of the two Movistar Yamaha riders, both of whom proclaimed themselves happy with how competitive they were, not having used a new tire for a fast lap. Andrea Dovizioso was similarly happy, ending very close to the top 3, and ahead of Dani Pedrosa on the second Repsol Honda.
Times at the end of day 1:
Little change on the timesheets at Sepang, after most of the riders avoided the worst heat of the afternoon. The track is getting a little busier now, with riders heading out to take advantage of cooling temperatures.
Times at just after 2pm:
More press releases previewing the Sepang test, from Bridgestone and from Tech 3:
Bridgestone prepares for the first MotoGP™ group test of 2015
Tuesday, February 3 2015
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Medium & Hard. Rear: Soft, Medium (Asymmetric) & Medium (Symmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Hard
The riders contesting this year’s MotoGP™ World Championship will get their first taste of Bridgestone’s 2015 specification tyres at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit from February 4-6, as the world’s largest tyre maker embarks on its seventh season as the official tyre supplier to the series.
Like last year, the MotoGP regulations for 2015 provide concessions on rear tyre choice for manufacturers, depending on their class of entry, Factory or Open, and their recent record in dry races. Open class entrants, and Factory class manufacturers that did not win a race in dry conditions in the previous season, will have access to rear slick compounds that are one step softer than Factory class entrants that did record a win in dry conditions last year.
The table below details the rear slick tyre allocation available to each team for pre-season testing and races during the 2015 season.
Testing is underway at Sepang, under good conditions, with temperatures reasonable and humidity not too high. Marc Marquez leads after just two hours, but it had taken him a while to set the quickest time, Dani Pedrosa having led earlier, with the two factor Yamahas and Andrea Dovizioso also quick.
Times at 12:15pm
The 2015 MotoGP season kicks off tomorrow. On Wednesday, the riders take to the track once again at Sepang to continue the development on the bikes they will be racing this year, and to test out the new updates the engineers have been working on during the winter break.
And yet the two most important and interesting developments won't even be at the first Sepang test. Ducati's much-anticipated Desmosedici GP15 is not quite ready for prime time, and so will not make its public debut until 19th February at the launch in Bologna, and not make its first laps in public until the second Sepang test at the end of this month. Yamaha's fully seamless gearbox – allowing both clutchless upshifts and downshifts – will also wait until Sepang 2 before Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo get their hands on the bike.
The official reasons given for the delay are that the GP15 and Yamaha's gearbox are almost ready, but not quite, still needing a few last checks by the engineers before they are ready to be handed over to the factory riders. Those of a cynical – or perhaps even paranoid – bent may be tempted to speculate that the delays are more to do with the media than the engineering. The first Sepang test this week is well-attended by journalists and photographers alike, the MotoGP press just as eager as the riders and the fans for the winter to be over.
The second Sepang test sees only a very few journalists attend, with few publications willing to spend the money to cover the expenses for what is often just more of the same. Perhaps the factories have cottoned on to this, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to test important new parts with a little less media attention. Or perhaps it really is just a case of not being quite ready in time.
Despite the absence of the really big news, there will still be plenty to see. So who will be testing what, and what are the key factors to keep an eye on?
The Repsol Honda team chose Bali as the location to launch their 2015 MotoGP livery. Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez unveiled a new color scheme broadly similar to last year's scheme, but with prominent Red Bull sponsorship. Though Satu Hari, the slogan of Honda's Indonesian subsidiary Astra Honda, is less visible, the fact that Honda chose to launch the new bike in Bali demonstrates just how important Indonesia remains as a market. The press release and photos from the launch appear below:
Marquez and Pedrosa unveil new 2015 livery in Bali
Today on the tropical Island of Bali, Repsol Honda’s World Champion Marc Marquez and teammate Dani Pedrosa revealed their new look 2015 race machines.
With the MotoGP test at Sepang due to start on Wednesday, the first preview press releases are starting to trickle in. Today, Suzuki and Marc VDS issued their previews, while Pramac Racing issued a press release containing an interview with team manager Francesco Guidotti. The press releases appear below:
SUZUKI MOTOGP BEGINS 2015 TESTING AT SEPANG
Team Suzuki Press Office – January 31.
SUZUKI MotoGP begins 2015 pre-season tests at Sepang in Malaysia next week in preparation for its return to the premier class of motorcycle racing at Losail, Qatar on March 29th.
Despite a forced winter testing ban, new team riders Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales, plus Suzuki’s factory technicians, have been hard at work training and continuing development of the 2015 GSX-RR MotoGP machine that the young Spaniards will race in the 18-round series.
The official four-day test at the 5,543m Sepang International Circuit, 60km south of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, will see all the 2015 MotoGP factory teams together on track for the first time between February 4-7th; and the first opportunity for Espargaro and Vinales to evaluate the new developments made to the GSX-RR at Suzuki’s development centre in Ryuyo in Japan since the previous tests in November.
Casey Stoner wrapped up a three-day test at Sepang on Saturday, riding the 2014 and 2015 Honda RC213V MotoGP bikes, as well as a Honda CBR1000RR which HRC is preparing for the Suzuka 8-Hour race. HRC issued the following press release after Stoner completed the test:
Stoner returns to Sepang in HRC test
Two-time MotoGP World Champion, Casey Stoner, has completed a successful test in Sepang with Honda Racing Corporation.
Casey began his test schedule at the 5.548km Sepang Circuit – 75km to the south of Kuala Lumpur – on Thursday mid-morning. Brief rain showers interrupted testing throughout the course of the three days, but nonetheless Casey was able to fulfil the plan set by HRC.
Casey spent time on both the 2014 and 2015 RC213V machines, doing a chassis comparison and analysed new variations of the new spec brought to this test by HRC. He also tried new brakes from Brembo amongst various other testing components. The engineers also took advantage of having Casey in Sepang to run a few laps on the Suzuka 8 Hour Honda CBR1000RR in the afternoon on the final day.
Casey Stoner 27
Test Rider – MotoGP
Officially, testing for 2015 MotoGP season starts in five days time, on Wednesday, 4th February. Unofficially, it started yesterday, when Yamaha and Honda's test teams gathered at Sepang to pre-test a number of parts and prepare the way for the arrival of the factory riders, who arrive in Malaysia next week.
Normally, test teams test in secret - a local journalist and photographer was told in no uncertain terms he would not be welcome at the track - which means their work goes unnoticed. Unfortunately for Honda - or perhaps fortunately, depending on your perspective - HRC had a very high-profile test rider at Sepang. Casey Stoner spent a couple of days on the 2015 Honda RC213V, and though no press release has yet been issued, a couple of posts on his Instagram and Twitter accounts gave a few clues about the test.
After the launch of the Movistar Yamaha team in Madrid, the team issued two press releases, featuring interviews with their 2015 riders. After yesterday's interview with Valentino Rossi, today we publish the interview with Jorge Lorenzo:
Where and how did you spend your winter holidays?
“I spent five days in Santo Domingo, sunbathing and enjoying the beach. I always like to go to a country where there is good weather. I started my training on January 2nd and have been preparing for the pre-season to be fit for the first test in Sepang. I’ve also been for a few days in Lugano and Punta Cana.”
Last year began with so many difficulties, how are you this year?
“I think I’m in much better shape. Physically I’m stronger from training because we have been focusing on the best workout sessions and I have not had to undergo surgery as occurred in 2014. Until I get on the bike and see how it’s going I prefer to be cautious and see what happens.”
What has changed in preparing this year compared to 2014?