Marco Melandri is to complete Aprilia's MotoGP line up for 2015. The Italian had been widely expected to switch back to MotoGP from World Superbikes, but confirmation came only on Monday at the Valencia test. Melandri will line up alongside Alvaro Bautista in the Gresini Aprilia team for next year.
The signing of Marco Melandri was not a surprise. The Italian still had another year to run on his contract to race in World Superbikes with Aprilia, but with the factory's decision to withdraw their factory team from WSBK, his options were less clear. Aprilia were keen for Melandri to move to MotoGP with the factory, but Melandri appeared to be reluctant to make the jump. After his options ran out in World Superbikes, he was left with nowhere else to go.
Below is the press release issued by Aprilia on Melandri's signing:
MARCO MELANDRI TO RACE WITH APRILIA IN MOTOGP
THE RIDER FROM RAVENNA WILL RACE UNDER THE ITALIAN TEAM'S COLOURS IN 2015
ROMANO ALBESIANO: "AN ITALIAN DUO TO TAKE ON APRILIA'S NEW CHALLENGE"
MARCO MELANDRI: "A VERY AMBITIOUS GOAL, BUT WE'RE READY"
Valencia, 10 November 2014 - The lineup is complete for the team that will take Aprilia into its rookie year in the 2015 MotoGP World Championship. After the announcement about Alvaro Bautista, today Marco Melandri has officially been signed, fresh from the conclusion of the 2014 Superbike season, also with Aprilia Racing, where he took 6 wins and another 5 podiums that contributed significantly to the WSBK Manufacturer Title that the Italian Brand won.
With these two new world titles earned in the recently ended WSBK season under its belt - Rider and Manufacturer - Aprilia now enters MotoGP a year ahead of the earlier announced schedule. As announced at the beginning of September, Aprilia Racing has signed an agreement with Gresini Racing, based on which Gresini Racing will mange the Aprilia bikes on the track in the MotoGP class for four years beginning with the 2015 season.
Born in 1982, Marco Melandri began his career at a very young age in minimoto, winning the Italian Championship in 1992 and 1994. Moving to 125 he became Italian Champion for the category in 1997, a title which allowed him to début in the "eighth litre" MotoGP class. Third in 1998 and second in 1999, Marco moved up a category to ride a powerful 250 two-stroke with Aprilia. This was the beginning of a Melandri-Aprilia match up where he finished fifth in the rider standings in 2000, third in 2001 and World Champion (with 9 wins and 2 podiums out of 16 races) in 2002.
Rising to the premier MotoGP category, Melandri immediately confirmed his competitiveness, finishing out the year in second place. In the various MotoGP categories Melandri has won 22 races and been on the podium 62 times.
In 2011 Marco Melandri moved over to World Superbike and was immediately a key player, so much that he was battling for the title from his rookie season, finishing the year in second place. Finishing third in the 2012 season, the rider from Ravenna was also a contender for the title in 2013, finishing out the season in fourth place. In SBK he has taken 19 wins and 31 podiums.
In its brief history, Aprilia boasts 54 World Titles (38 in MotoGP, 7 in Superbike and 9 in off-road disciplines) which make it one of the most victorious brands on a global level in motorcycle racing. Many recent protagonists in the motorcycle racing world have raced and won with Aprilia such as Biaggi, Capirossi, Rossi, Melandri, Simoncelli, Stoner and Lorenzo.
Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Director: "With Marco Melandri the last piece of the puzzle has been put into place for Aprilia's participation in next year's MotoGP season. These have been very intense and exciting days where in just a few hours we went from the last round of Superbike at Losail to this new adventure in MotoGP. We are very pleased to announce Marco's signing because this completes our team in the best way possible on the eve of a great challenge: with Melandri we now have an all-Italian bike-rider duo. We are moving into MotoGP a year ahead of schedule on wings of enthusiasm because of the double world Superbike championships we have just won. We moved our schedule up because we want the most demanding tracks and the most competitive championship in the world to gauge the quality of our work. Aprilia's 54 world titles, the hundreds of wins on tracks all over the world give proof of technical skills and a winning attitude that deserve the limelight of the most prestigious stage."
Marco Melandri: "I was offered the chance to develop a completely new project and it is something that I have not yet done in my career since I have always had 'inherited' bikes. Precisely for this reason I am very intrigued by this challenge. I am working with a company and a racing department which sought me out and with which I want to continue to work in order to develop and grow a great project. Aprilia Racing has always demonstrated their ability to make great bikes and make them fast. I'll put in my efforts. Our goal is quite ambitious: to grow a bike and at the same time to develop a new prototype that will race in 2016. It will be a demanding season and a lot of work but we are ready to take on these challenges."
Motorcycle racing is expanding further into Asia. The World Superbike series has agreed a three-year deal with the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to stage a round of WSBK at the track.
The track at Buriram was completed earlier this year, and had already staged several rounds of car racing, as well as a round of the FIM Asia Road Racing championship. After an inspection by Dorna and the FIM, the track was homologated earlier this year, and will now see a visit from World Superbikes. The WSBK round is seen by Dorna as a test for MotoGP, with a chance of the premier class visiting the circuit from 2016 onwards.
Though the facilities at Buriram appear to be first rate, the only concern about the track is it is in the middle of nowhere. Bangkok is four hours away, and the town of Buriram is home to 15,000. Accommodation, just for the teams, could be difficult, let alone the crowds they hope to have.
Thailand is one of three extra rounds expected to be added to the World Superbike schedule for 2015. The 12 races held this year will also feature on the calendar, with Thailand added and Dorna hoping to add two more races. The World Superbike schedule is expected to be published next Tuesday, 18th November.
Below is the official press release issued by Dorna:
WSBK to head to Thailand in 2015
Barcelona (Spain), Monday 10 November 2014 – Dorna WSBK Organization and the FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) are glad to announce that a new circuit will enter the WSBK calendar in 2015.
Chang International Circuit, in Buriram, Thailand, will host the eni FIM Superbike World Championship for the first time ever in the history of the competition, next 20-22 March 2015. The agreement between DWO and the local organiser consist in a 3-year contract.
Following their recent visit to the circuit, FIM and Dorna representatives could state that the homologation procedure was approved and could verify that both the track and the facilities are ready to welcome the world series.
Thailand is the 24th Country to be visited by the eni FIM Superbike World Championship and, as well as the whole Asian area, represents a strategic market for the production-based bikes championship and its sponsors and partners, and the interest of local fans in motorsports can guarantee a huge spectator attendance on site.
The Thai Round is joining the list of the 12 events held in 2014 which are already confirmed for the next season. Dorna and FIM are still working closely on a final calendar for the 2015 that will consist of a maximum of 15 rounds and which will be published next November, 18th.
Javier Alonso, Dorna WSBK Executive Director: “We are pleased to announce the introduction of the Thai Round in the calendar, as a clear evidence of our goal to reach new key markets for the motorcycle industry. Over the last two years the World SBK has accomplished to be present within important regions, such as the USA, Malaysia, Australia and Qatar with successful events, and we keep working in this direction.”
Vito Ippolito, FIM President: “One of the objectives of the FIM is to have races on every continent. The Asian people are very enthusiastic about motorcycling and having Thailand in the 2015 calendar is a real honour and achievement for all of us and very important for the sport!”
Newin Chidchob, Chang International Circuit President: “Chang International Circuit is located in Buriram, one of the northeastern provinces of Thailand, and can accommodate up to 40,000 spectators. The track is 4.554 km in length, and its 12 corners are designed to support the highest speeds. Last October the circuit hosted the Buriram United Super GT race, with a crowd figure of 131,000 spectators and hundreds of media covering the event. We look forward to hosting our first world competition for motorcycles and we are proud this will be the eni FIM Superbike World Championship.”
MotoGP looks set to head to Austria from 2016. Today, Red Bull co-founder Dieter Mateschitz and Dorna reached an agreement to host an Austrian round of the series at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. The agreement is merely preliminary, and subject to the track gaining FIM homologating the track and granting it a license to stage a MotoGP race.
The Red Bull Ring - previously known as the A1 Ring, before being bought by Mateschitz - has been upgraded and this year hosted both a round of Formula 1 and a round of the Red Bull Air Race. It was also the scene of the last Austrian Grand Prix, held back in 1997. The race was dropped after that year due to poor spectator attendance.
Now, with increased visibility of the series, and especially increased involvement by Red Bull in MotoGP, stepping up sponsorship, the prospect is more attractive for both the organizers and Dorna. The inclusion of Austria from 2016 makes it almost certain that at least one Spanish round, and possibly Misano, could be dropped from the MotoGP schedule. Thailand looks a firm favorite to also host a round of MotoGP in 2016, and talks are continuing with Chile as well.
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Hiroshi Aoyama is to become a test rider for Honda in 2015. The future of the Japanese rider was uncertain after Eugene Laverty was signed to race with the Aspar team for next year, and Aoyama's options in the MotoGP paddock were limited. As a rider who has spent almost his entire career with Honda, including winning the last ever 250cc championship in 2009, Aoyama was the logical choice to take on a role as test rider.
Aoyama's work will commence on Friday at Valencia. Honda have brought the RC213V-RS to Valencia, the bike which is to replace the RCV1000R Open class Honda in 2015. Aoyama is to race the new bike, which features pneumatic valves and a more powerful engine, though it still does not have the seamless gearbox of the factory bikes. Aoyama's performance on the bike this weekend should give an idea of how much more competitive the Open class honda will be next year.
Aoyama will most likely not be Honda's only test rider. HRC are expected to reach an agreement with Casey Stoner to act as test rider for the factory. Aoyama is likely to take the place of one of Honda's other Japanese riders, Shinichi Itoh or Kousuke Akiyoshi.
The press release from Honda announcing Aoyama as a test rider appears below:
HRC announce Aoyama as test rider for 2015
Honda Racing Corporation confirmed they have signed Hiroshi Aoyama, 2009 250cc World Champion, as a test rider in 2015.
The first step of this new project will see Hiro riding the new Honda Open Class bike with pneumatic valve engine, the RC213V-RS, in Valencia this weekend for his final race with the Aspar Team.
In next week’s three day test the 2015 machine will be shared between Karel Abraham and Nicky Hayden.
HRC Executive Vice President
"We are very pleased to confirm Hiro as a test rider for next year. He’s done a very good job this year and especially in these final races. This is an important project for HRC and we believe that he will be a valued addition for the development of HRC machines in the future. We have a long relationship with Hiro, and we look forward to continuing this into the future."
The end of the 2014 World Superbike championship, wrapped up last night at Qatar, has triggered a series of official rider announcements for 2015. Two of the most anticipated announcements were made on Monday, with official confirmation that Jonathan Rea would be leaving Pata Honda to join the Kawasaki Racing Team in World Superbikes, while the seat he is vacating at the Ten Kate Pata Honda team will be filled by newly-crowned 2014 World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli. Rea will line up alongside Tom Sykes, while Guintoli will be teammate to World Supersport champion Michael van der Mark.
The moves of both men were an open secret in the paddock, and had originally been expected to be announced after the previous round at Magny-Cours. That, however, was dependent on Sykes wrapping up the title at the French round, but an outstanding weekend by Guintoli and a poor weekend by Sykes took the title chase down to the final WSBK round at Qatar this Sunday. With the championship over, the news could finally be announced.
The partnership of Rea and Sykes is eagerly awaited, both inside and outside the paddock. Rea is very highly rated by industry insiders, who have praised what the Ulsterman has been able to achieve on what is widely regarded as an outdated and underperforming Honda CBR1000RR. Rea has finished ahead of his teammate and as first Honda rider, ever since moving to WSBK in 2009. Rea is expected to be a very strong teammate for Sykes, something which the rumored animosity between Sykes and Rea will only exacerbate. The pairing of Rea with Sykes will certainly make Kawasaki the strong favorites for the 2015 WSBK title.
Guintoli moves to the Pata Honda team, where he takes the place of the departing Rea. Guintoli's move has been made necessary after Aprilia's (unannounced) withdrawal of their factory team from World Superbikes. The Italian manufacturer is now set to focus their efforts on MotoGP, where they have joined forces with Gresini to run a factory squad. Whether Aprilia will continue to support private teams in WSBK has yet to be decided.
Rea and Guintoli are not the only recent announcements. Earlier, the Althea Ducati squad announced their line up for next season, with former Moto2 rider Nico Terol joining Matteo Baiocco on the Ducati Panigale 1199R. Terol has decided to switch to World Superbikes after a difficult season in Moto2, when he was sidelined with health issues, including food allergy issues and a hormonal imbalance, both of which badly affected his fitness. With Toni Elias also set to stay in WSBK next season, that makes two Spanish former world champions in the series for 2015.
Kawasaki is pleased to announce that Jonathan Rea will partner Tom Sykes in a two-pronged KRT attack on the 2015 FIM Superbike World Championship.
British rider Rea (27) is no stranger to the Superbike World Championship class having made 140 race starts and taken 15 victories since his first full season of participation in 2009.
Rea has scored four race wins in the recently competed 2014 championship season and his addition to the squad alongside 2013 champion Sykes demonstrates the strong commitment Kawasaki and the KRT squad have to regaining the championship in 2015. KRT now has two of the top three riders in the 2014 championship signed up for 2015.
KRT will start their drive to regain the title when they begin their heavy testing schedule this month in Spain.
Guim Roda - Team Manager of KRT commented:
“After three years working with Loris Baz to grow up a young talent, we will start in 2015 a new strategy, with an experienced and fully formed rider Johnny Rea. We are sure he can increase the whole team performance and he will be a very good team-mate with Tom Sykes. Both have a big respect for each other, and I’m sure both guys will increase their performance, searching the limits of the Ninja ZX-10R. We expect to put on track two very strong riders next year so it is our idea try to win back the title with our two British weapons.”
Pere Riba – Jonathan Rea’s Crew Chief commented:
“I am very happy that a rider with this kind of level of experience is coming to our Kawasaki team. For me, and all the team, this makes us feel very happy. I believe we have shown that we have a good base and we are working hard to have an even better bike. I believe we can give the tools to Jonathan so he will be fighting for the championship. We will start the winter tests very soon and I feel very positive that Kawasaki took the decision to have Jonathan in the team. As a crew chief we will try to give him the best not only technically but also helping him in general and I am sure we can have a good year.”
Steve Guttridge – Kawasaki Race Planning Manager commented:
“The opportunity to sign a rider of Johnny's calibre and experience to race alongside our established hero Tom Sykes was a dream we'd studied every season but this time it could come true! Johnny is super-motivated to make the next step in his career and thankfully it is with Kawasaki. We will give him all the tools necessary to make that next step in the Superbike World Championship with our great crew and bike. He himself as a character has a big potential to add to our team’s overall success, both on and off the track, and his personal enthusiasm to succeed alongside Tom can only lift the Kawasaki Racing Team and our brand to the next level in 2015.”
The 2014 World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli has signed an agreement to ride for the Pata Honda team alongside Michael van der Mark in the 2015 championship aboard Honda’s CBR1000RR Fireblade SP machine.
Guintoli is one of the most widely experienced riders in the World Superbike paddock and won the 2014 title in yesterday’s final round at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. The French rider, who lives in the UK with his English wife Caroline and their four children, has also ridden at the highest level in MotoGP.
The 32-year-old has a total of nine World Superbike wins to his credit, five of which have come this season: at Phillip Island in Australia, Assen in the Netherlands, his home round of Magny-Cours in France last month, and a double race win in Qatar yesterday to end the season in some style. He boasts a total of 40 WSBK podium finishes.
Although the 2015 season will be Guintoli’s first ride for Honda, he has a strong historical relationship with the team’s title partner Pata, having ridden for a Pata-sponsored Ducati team in 2012, taking two race victories to finish seventh that season in the World Superbike standings.
The announcement of Guintoli’s appointment to the Pata Honda World Superbike team and his new partnership with 2014 World Supersport champion, Michael van der Mark, means that the team will bid farewell to both Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam. The entire Pata Honda team and Honda Motor Europe offer their very best wishes to both riders in the future careers.
Sylvain Guintoli - profile
|Date of birth||24 June 1982|
|Place of birth||Montélimar, France|
|Home town||Market Bosworth, UK|
|Race machine||Pata Honda CBR1000RR|
|World Superbike debut||2009 – Portimao, Portugal|
|World Superbike races||129|
|World Superbike pole positions||4|
|First World Superbike podium||2011 – Miller Motorsports Park, USA|
|Total World Superbike podiums||40|
|First World Superbike win||2012 – Assen, the Netherlands|
|Total World Superbike wins||9|
250cc French champion
3rd, 250cc European championship
|2001||14th, 250cc world championship|
|2002||Test rider – Yamaha GP|
|2003||10th, 250cc world championship - Aprilia|
|2004||14th, 250cc world championship - Aprilia|
|2005||10th, 250cc world championship - Aprilia|
|2006||9th, 250cc world championship - Aprilia|
|2007||16th, MotoGP world championship - Yamaha|
|2008||13th, MotoGP world championship - Ducati|
|2009||8th, British Superbike championship - Suzuki|
|2010||7th, World Superbike championship - Suzuki|
|2011||6th, World Superbike championship - Ducati|
|2012||7th, World Superbike championship - Ducati|
|2013||3rd, World Superbike championship - Aprilia|
|2014||World Superbike champion – Aprilia|
The events of this season and especially last night are still buzzing in my head, but I’m delighted to be joining the Honda family and to be reuniting with Pata. The last time we worked together was a very unexpected but successful partnership. I brought Pata their first victories and we have a strong relationship. I’m looking forward to tackling this new challenge and I can’t wait to get going. Johnny [Rea] has obviously been strong on the Honda all season, and sometimes he’s been very strong! So I think there is definitely a big potential with the bike and I think the new rules for next year will suit it. So for us this is good news and I can’t wait to understand how it works; but it looks like a really good package and I’m looking forward to getting the first impressions soon.
Ronald ten Kate - Pata Honda team manager
In many ways it’s the end of an era, but it’s the start of a new one, too, and I think 2015 is going to be a really exciting season for us. I’m really delighted that we are able to welcome Sylvain to the Pata Honda team for his first ride with Honda. He has a great record in the World Superbike championship and has performed really well this season to come back from a big deficit and win the title yesterday in style. With Mikey [van der Mark] on the other side of the garage I believe we have that perfect blend of youth and experience that all team managers aim for. We have an intensive winter testing schedule planned and I honestly can’t wait for next season to start.
Robert Watherston - head of motorsport, HME
First of all, congratulations to Sylvain on his title! This is a fantastic appointment for the team and I’m very happy that we have been able to secure the services of a rider who can bring so much top level experience to the team. Sylvain will be the perfect foil for Michael’s [van der Mark] aggression and raw speed so I see this as a great line-up for the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP’s ongoing development as we head into this new era of WSBK regulations. On behalf of the whole team, we wish Jonathan and Leon all the best for the future and thank them both enormously for their years of service with Honda.
Before the 2014 Superbike World Championship comes to a conclusion, Team Althea Racing is already hard at work as it starts to make preparations for next season. In 2015, the partnership between the Team and Ducati will continue. In 2011, the Team won Ducati’s most recent World Superbike title, with Carlos Checa on board the 1098R; Checa was the first Spaniard ever to win the Superbike title.
Next year the Team will line up with two very experienced riders and with the strong desire to unleash its full potential and be able to create a team with all of the characteristics needed to win.
Genesio Bevilacqua, Althea Racing Team Owner, has decided to focus on Spaniard Nicolas Terol and on Italian rider Matteo Baiocco. Both riders are able to bring results to the Team and it is for this reason that the Team has decided on these two men. Ambition, experience and a desire to stand out are the qualities that the Team was looking for and, in this case, all of the prerequisites with which to do well exist. A bike, the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, that has everything needed to be able to compete at the highest level against rival manufacturers, and two riders that can fight for podium finishes with the Ducati in every race.
Nicolas Terol was the last rider to win the former 125 championship title, in 2011, with the Aprilia of Team Bancaja Aspar. 2014 was not a very positive year for Nico, who did not achieve the results he’d hoped for due to a hip injury that resulted from the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez della Frontera and went on to condition his entire season. The 26-year old, from Alcoy in Spain, will come to Team Althea with a great deal of experience and the desire to demonstrate his true value.
Matteo Baiocco, born in 1984, knows the bike better than anyone, thanks to his work as Ducati test rider. It is also worth noting that Matteo has, until now, been the fastest rider ever to ride the 1199 Panigale R; he set a new Mugello track record of 1’49.7 which smashed all previous records. The rider, from Osimo in Italy, won the Italian Superbike championship (CIV) on two consecutive occasions, in 2011 and 2012, and also battled for the 2014 title right down to the last laps of the very last race at Mugello. All of these qualities have resulted in the Team selecting him for 2015.
Genesio Bevilacqua: “The 2015 season represents a relaunch for Team Althea and, having dominated with Ducati for three years in the reigning class, the Team has decided to focus on two experienced riders. Nico Terol is a rider with great talent and we believe that a Team like ours can help bring him the success that he deserves; his true value has not been appreciated. Matteo is a rider who I know well, he is extremely experienced and knows the bike better than anyone else so I am sure that this can be a fundamental year for his career. Thanks to collaboration with Ducati management, who we thank for the trust they have put in us, we have the privilege of taking top class bikes, with which we have always been able to perform at the highest level, back on the track.
Matteo Baiocco: “I’m really pleased to have reached an agreement with Genesio Bevilacqua and with Team Althea. Becoming part of such a successful Team is a very important opportunity for me to put all of my experience from recent years, in national championships and in the development of the Panigale SBK with Ducati, into practice. I feel ready for this new challenge and believe that this opportunity has come at the right time for me. I can’t wait to start working with my new team, in order to find the right harmony and arrive competitive at next season’s opening race.”
Nicolas Terol:”I’m very happy about this opportunity with Team Althea. I’m lucky to be coming to a championship such as Superbike that I have always followed closely, and with a very experienced Team that knows how to win. It’s great to be able to debut with a bike like the Ducati. This period has been very difficult for me, so I consider the move to Superbike as a chance to start over. I’ve never lost the desire to compete against others and fight for the win. I thank Genesio Bevilacqua and Team Althea for having chosen me for their Team. In the past I have worked with Gigi Dall’Igna who is now part of Ducati’s top management; he is a person who has always respected me. I can’t wait to get on my new bike and begin this new adventure.”
Yonny Hernandez is to remain with the Pramac Ducati squad for the 2015 season, and will race a Factory Option Desmosedici GP14.2 alongside Danilo Petrucci. Though the news had long been known, Ducati today issued a press release officially announcing Hernandez as the second rider at Pramac.
The deal will see Hernandez race with Pramac in 2015, with an option to extend the contract to 2016, though the statement does not make it clear who can exercise the option. Hernandez and Petrucci will race the GP14.2, the bike currently being contested by Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, running Ducati's factory software and using the Ducati performance concessions. This means they will retain the softer tire, 24 liters of fuel, and extra engines and testing for the 2015 season.
The press release from Ducati appears below:
Yonny Hernandez contracts with Ducati to continue with the Pramac Racing Team in 2015 MotoGP World Championship
Ducati Corse is pleased to announce that it has signed an agreement with Yonny Hernandez that will tie the Colombian rider to Ducati for 2015, with an option for 2016.
Hernandez, born on July 25th 1988 in Medellín, made his MotoGP debut in 2012 and began his adventure with Ducati last year in the GP of Aragòn, as replacement for the injured Ben Spies on the Pramac Racing Team Desmosedici machine.
Confirmed by the team for 2014, Yonny has raced this season with a GP13 Factory bike, often showing good form in qualifying and the races: his best career result came last Sunday at Sepang, where he finished seventh. Hernandez currently lies fifteenth overall in the standings with 53 points.
Next year Yonny will continue to race for the Pramac Racing Team, and at the post-race tests in Valencia he will get a first chance to try out the Desmosedici GP14.2 with which he will take part in the 2015 season
Casey Stoner has made a temporary return to MotoGP, completing two days of testing for Honda at Motegi. Over the two days of testing, Stoner focused on the 2015 version of Honda's RC213V, the Australian comparing the settings used by Repsol Honda's current riders, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, to see how they work with the new bike. Stoner also worked on preparing the 2015 further ahead of its debut at the Valencia test after the final race of the season. Finally, he also spent some time on the development versions of Michelin's MotoGP tires, as the French manufacturer prepares to take over as spec tire supplier from 2016 onwards. As is their custom with all testing, Honda did not release any lap times.
Stoner volunteered to do the test as compensation for the tests he was scheduled to do in 2013. Those tests were largely rained off due to poor weather in Japan, and Stoner felt he still owed HRC some testing. With better weather conditions at Motegi for this test, the Australian was able to make good on his debt to Honda. According to MCN's Matt Birt, HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto is keen to retain Stoner as a test rider, but agreement is yet to be reached.
Stoner's return to testing will inevitably fuel speculation that he may return to racing at some point in the future. However, the chances of that happening appear to be zero. Those who know Stoner personally report that he is entirely happy in his retirement, dividing his time between his family, fishing and racing RC cars. Stoner's posts on various social media networks confirm the impression that the Australian is enjoying having a normal family life, and watching his daughter grow up.
After the test, HRC issued a press release complete with photographs, which appears below:
Casey Stoner completes two-day test in Motegi
Two-time MotoGP World Champion, Casey Stoner, has finished his two day test in Japan with Honda Racing Corporation – the first time back on a MotoGP machine since October last year.
Yesterday morning, Casey took to the 4.801km circuit located amongst the vast natural beauty of the northern Kanto district and scene of Honda’s recent 2014 World Championship clinching race, just a few weeks ago. The weather was kind and the intense testing programme reached it’s conclusion this afternoon after a full two days. Casey spent time testing the 2015 Honda RC213V machine on the current specification Bridgestone tyres testing various items including engine development and different setups. He also spent time on the 2016 Michelin tyres.
“It took some time to get used to riding the bike again after a year off it! But everything felt good, I got back into the swing of things pretty quickly and we just got on with the testing programme HRC had planned. Day one went pretty well, testing both Marc and Dani’s setups on the 2015 prototype machines and analysing these side by side we found some interesting differences and useful data. We also did some engine development and some other new items Honda brought for this test. Then today we spent some time on the Michelin tyres for 2016. All in all it was very positive two-day test and we completed a lot of laps.”
Photos courtesy of Aki Kusudo
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Along with the Moto3 and Moto2 entry lists, the FIM announced the provisional entry list for MotoGP for the 2015 season. The list contains no surprises, all the signings already announced.
It does, however, contain two question marks, one large, one small. The large one is whether Marco Melandri will be joining Alvaro Bautista in the Gresini Aprilia squad next season, or whether he will stay on in World Superbikes for another year. Melandri is believed to be wary of the Aprilia MotoGP project, given the lack of competitiveness of the bike. For 2016, a new and greatly revised bike is expected, built specifically for MotoGP, rather than the modified RSV4 which they are currently racing. Melandri may be holding out for a year to assess the competitiveness of a new bike. However, if Aprilia do not back any teams in WSBK next year, then Melandri may find that his hand is being forced. No doubt that situation will finally be resolved next week, at the last round of World Superbikes at Qatar.
The other question is whether the IODA team will actually take part in MotoGP next year. They have struggled for funds in 2014, unable to field the two bikes originally planned. For next year, they have neither a bike nor a rider signed, and without finding a generous sponsor, it is hard to imagine how they will continue. More will become apparent at Valencia, no doubt, when (or indeed, if) the team tests on the three days following the race.
The provisional 2015 MotoGP line up:
|4||Andrea Dovizioso||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati GP15||*|
|6||Stefan Bradl||GER||NGM Forward Racing||Forward Yamaha|
|8||Hector Barbera||SPA||Avintia Racing||Ducati GP14.2|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||ITA||Pramac Racing||Ducati GP14.2||*|
|17||Karel Abraham||CZE||Cardion AB Motoracing||Honda RC213V-RS|
|19||Alvaro Bautista||SPA||Factory Aprilia Gresini||Aprilia||*|
|25||Maverick Vinales||SPA||Team Suzuki MotoGP||Suzuki GSX-RR||*|
|26||Dani Pedrosa||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||*|
|29||Andrea Iannone||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati GP15||*|
|35||Cal Crutchlow||GBR||CMW LCR Honda||Honda RC213V||*|
|38||Bradley Smith||GBR||Monster Yamaha Tech3||Yamaha M1||*|
|41||Aleix Espargaro||SPA||Team Suzuki MotoGP||Suzuki GSX-RR||*|
|43||Jack Miller||AUS||CMW LCR Honda||Honda RC213V-RS|
|44||Pol Espargaro||SPA||Monster Yamaha Tech3||Yamaha M1||*|
|45||Scott Redding||GBR||Marc VDS Racing Team||Honda RC213V||*|
|46||Valentino Rossi||ITA||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha M1||*|
|50||Eugene Laverty||IRL||Drive M7 Aspar||Honda RC213V-RS|
|63||Mike Di Meglio||FRA||Avintia Racing||Ducati GP14.2|
|68||Yonny Hernandez||COL||Pramac Racing||Ducati GP14.2||*|
|69||Nicky Hayden||USA||Drive M7 Aspar||Honda RC213V-RS|
|76||Loris Baz||FRA||NGM Forward Racing||Forward Yamaha|
|93||Marc Marquez||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||*|
|99||Jorge Lorenzo||SPA||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha M1||*|
|To Be Confirmed||Factory Aprilia Gresini||Aprilia||*|
|To Be Confirmed||OCTO Iodaracing Team||TBC|