One of the things I enjoy most about running the MotoMatters.com website is the ability to communicate and interact directly with fans. Here, and as @motomatters on Twitter (and even one day on Facebook, once I get the page sorted out properly), I derive a lot of pleasure from hearing your questions and answering them to the best of my ability.
Of course, the problem with Twitter is that space to give an answer is severely limited, to just 140 characters. That doesn't leave much space to give as full an answer as the questions usually deserve. Similarly, when responding to comments on the website, I often don't have the time to spend giving the answer the full attention it deserves, as most of the questions and comments come during a race weekend.
To rectify this, I will be hosting an Ask Me Anything session on MotoMatters.com on Wednesday, 26th November 2014. Send me any question you like, and I shall endeavor to answer it. Want to know about how I got into bikes, how I started the website, who my favorite photographer is? (It's our very own Scott Jones, of course!) Want to know who I think is the best crew chief in the paddock, or what the future of Moto2 is, or whether Dorna will make the series grow or are running it into the ground? I shall try to give as honest an answer as I can to all of the questions received. Of course, the normal rules of MotoMatters.com debate apply: questions should not be intended to offend, or likely to deteriorate into pointless and circular flame wars.
So how can you ask your questions? There are three ways:
- If you are a registered user, you can post your question as a comment under the Ask Me Anything blog post which will be published at 00:00am CET on Wednesday, 26th November 2014. If you are not a registered user, you can sign up here. As a registered user, you will also be able to post follow up questions, and participate in the debate on other pages.
- If you are not a registered user, you can also send your questions to me via the Ask Me Anything form on the Contact page. Make sure that Ask Me Anything is selected in the drop down list (it is by default).
- If you do not want to use either of those methods, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with Ask Me Anything in the subject line.
I look forward to your questions, and will do my best to answer them.
PS: Don't post your questions in the comments section here, as I will have forgotten them by the time Wednesday 26th November comes around.
While the Moto2 and Moto3 bikes were circulating at Valencia, along with the Althea WSBK team, Ducati and Kawasaki wrapped up their test at the Motorland Aragon circuit in preparation for the 2015 World Superbike series. The two Ducati riders were once again fastest, building on the work from Monday, with Davide Giugliano topping the timesheets ahead of teammate Chaz Davies. Jonathan Rea managed to just pip his Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes, an impressive enough performance on his first ride out on the ZX-10R, though reports from the track suggest Rea may have set his best time on qualifying tires.
All of the riders have a lot of work to do, with new technical regulations that restrict the tuning of the engines and limit electronics to a factory-supplied kit. Ducati has the least amount of work to do, the factory already having prepared for 2015 during the 2014 season, and having not to change much as a result. Kawasaki had more work on their hands, much of it falling on the shoulders of Tom Sykes, as Jonathan Rea's main objective at Aragon was simply learning his way around the bike. Also present at the track were a number of journalists and test riders, who got to ride both Tom Sykes' WSBK ZX-10R and the EVO spec Kawasaki ZX-10R with which David Salom took the 2014 EVO crown. Among those doing media laps were former Moto2 race winner Jordi Torres.
Below are press releases issued by Ducati and Kawasaki after the test:
The Ducati Superbike Team concludes its first winter test sessions today in Spain
Alcaniz (Spain), Tuesday 18 November 2014 – The Ducati Superbike Team and riders Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano have completed the first of a series of winter tests, which took place this week at the Spanish circuit of Motorland Aragon, in mainly dry conditions and with very positive results.
The Ducati Superbike Team’s winter test schedule got started this week at Motorland Aragon. The team, also strengthened as a result of reconfirming both of its riders, Welshman Chaz Davies and Italian rider Davide Giugliano, was able to make the best possible start to its preparations for the new season. Work begins just two weeks after the final races of the 2014 season were held in Qatar.
Yesterday, in fairly cold conditions and on what was a damp track after overnight rain, the team focused on testing the new Panigale in its 2015 Superbike configuration, working with new electronics, new components and a new engine, that is closer to that of the production bike, in line with the 2015 regulation. In the afternoon, and on a dry track, both Davies and Giugliano completed approximately fifty laps, recording some very interesting lap times in the process.
Today, conditions allowed the team to work well with no interruptions to the programme. A great deal of important data was collated and the choices previously defined and tested by the development team were consolidated. The day concluded positively, with continuous improvement on the previous day’s performance in terms of lap times.
Winter testing will continue for the Ducati Superbike Team next week, with the Italian squad taking to the Spanish circuit of Jerez from the 26 to 28 November.
Quotes at the end of testing:
Chaz Davies - Ducati Superbike Team #7
“We’ve had two very positive days. This is the first time that I’m starting winter testing with the evolution of the the same bike with which I finished the season and this is important in terms of continuity in our work. The approach with the new bike has been very easy because the sensations are very similar to those I had with the bike I rode in Qatar. We’ve carried out some tests to confirm some of the solutions used during this season and the new components introduced on the 2015 bike have given us some very clear and positive feedback. The new electronics are working well and the new engine behaves in a fluid, linear way. I’ve had fun and look forward to getting back on the bike next week.”
Davide Giugliano – Ducati Superbike Team #34
“It’s all gone very well, we’ve tried many different things, all of which have led to improvements in areas where we needed them. I’m very pleased with the 2015 package because as soon as I got on the bike I felt comfortable, and we were able to concentrate on set-up and the testing of new components right away. Going fast at Aragon is very important to me because it’s a track that has always given me problems. We still have to work on pace which is the most critical aspect for me, but already over these two days we’ve seen that I was able to lap consistently fast with used tyres. This is very positive as we look ahead to next week’s tests at Jerez.”
Ernesto Marinelli – Ducati Superbike Project Director
“The first test in preparation for the 2015 season has been a positive one and I’m pleased that the configuration defined during the latest development tests in September and October has been supported by Chaz and Davide, who have confirmed the chosen solutions. We’ve still got a lot of work to do but the stopwatch tells us that we’re on the right path and rewards the huge amount of work put in both at home and on the track during the season. Aragon and Jerez are two very different tracks so it will be important to consolidate the information and results collated here when we get to Jerez next week, so that we can be confident when we resume in January.”
Motorland Winter Test Wraps Up For KRT
The new-look Kawasaki Racing Team of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea completed their first winter test in preparation for the 2015 season with two days of action at Motorland Aragon in Spain, on 17 and 18 November. It was the first chance for Jonathan Rea to ride the Ninja ZX-10R after he was recently confirmed in the KRT team for 2015.
With several technical changes about to be introduced to the FIM Superbike World Championship next year the team worked on the many modifications to the Ninja ZX-10R, which include lower levels of engine tuning and fewer areas of machine adjustability than in 2014.
For the first time the riders used the MotoGP version of the Motorland Aragon circuit, rather than the more familiar SBK layout. Despite losing track time on day one after a rainy start each rider completed a high number of laps, with Sykes posting just over 100 and Rea around 80.
Neither rider was concentrating on lap times at this early stage but Rea made a best lap time of 1’51.1 on Motorland’s MotoGP layout, which will be used by the WSB class in 2015. Sykes set a best of 1’51.2 on a medium compound tyre choice, which he used all through this shakedown test for reasons of consistency and repeatability.
Next up for the KRT squad is more track evaluation of the 2015 equipment, this time at Jerez - the other Spanish circuit to have been recently confirmed on the 2015 WSBK race calendar. There will be two two-day sessions for tom and Jonathan at Jerez; 24 and 25 November and then 27 an 28 November.
Tom Sykes: “As we all know there are a lot of new technical regulations for 2015 and as soon as I left pitlane on day one I knew that we have a lot of work to do. I changed my mindset after that because we had a big list of things to try, plus some requests from KHI. We never got the chance to find a perfect package so we just focused more on race pace and evaluating things. We found a set-up and worked through the list of items to test. My approach was to find out where we are right now and what we need to do to get faster. I was also working on my riding style on the new set-up because in some ways it was ground zero at this test. We will work with a strong sense of the development direction we should take to arrive at the first round in Australia in a good place.”
Marcel Duinker, Tom Sykes’ Crew Chief said: “The new regulations mean that the bike is very different. If you have been working so hard on the previous bike and been so successful it is quite a shock when you have to almost start from scratch because the new rules give us quite a few limitations. Tom set a 1’51.2 lap and did 101 laps in total despite losing track time on day one due to rain. We started on a medium compound race tyre and stayed with that compound each day. This was so that we were able to make a proper comparison because we used a lot of new material. At the next test in Jerez we still have quite a lot of things to test and we were just a bit limited in time here. We need to find our set up and because the new rules are so different we need more time to discover our performance.”
Pere Riba, Jonathan Rea’s Crew Chief said: “I feel quite positive about this first test. We used our new bike to suit the 2015 rules for the first time and at the same time we have a new rider in Jonathan Rea. On the first day it was raining in the morning but then it was a good day of testing because we started to understand what Jonathan needed. He is a very good rider, very professional and the information we received is really good. It helps us to understand which direction we needed to go in to develop the bike. Jonathan did around 40 laps each day. It was a first test so we had to look for the base setting for the rider and the machine. That meant we spent quite a lot of time in the pit box making changes, but it worked out positively.”
The FIM have finally released the provisional calendar for the World Superbike series for next year. The 2015 season will see WSBK travel to 14 rounds, returning to all of the venues which hosted races in 2014, and two more overseas rounds added, in Russia and Thailand.
The chances of this being the definitive calendar appear to be slim. Three rounds are marked as still subject to contract: Portimao, Moscow and Qatar. Both Portimao and Qatar look likely to go ahead, but whether WSBK will actually return to Moscow remains to be seen. The 2014 round was canceled due to the political instability in the Russian Federation and the overflow of conflict in Ukraine, which affected various partners of the series. The political situation has only deteriorated since then, with the EU and US imposing sanctions on Russia, making the race there almost impossible. The teams and riders will be hoping for the round to be canceled: the race was a logistical nightmare to get equipment to and from, and for both the fans and riders to attend and find accommodation for.
The Moscow round is a legacy of the period when WSBK was still being run by Infront Motor Sports. Infront bosses Paolo and Maurizio Flammini signed a contract with Alexander Yakhnich of Yakhnich Motor Sports to host a Russian round of WSBK until 2021. A round in Russia will be scheduled for as long as that contract has left to run, though the chances of it actually being held appear to be slim. The situation highlights the risk of signing contracts with circuits or organizers in politically sensitive or unstable regions.
Happier news for WSBK is that they are heading to Thailand, to the Chang International Circuit. The race is to be the first World Championship race held in the country, and is the start of a push by both Dorna and the manufacturers into Asia. The circuit itself is a good distance from the Thai capital Bangkok, with only limited accommodation in the region, but the popularity of all forms of motorcycle racing in the region makes it prime territory for both WSBK and MotoGP. The Thai round is widely believed to be a prelude to MotoGP going to the track, with the circuit expected to appear on the 2016 MotoGP calendar if the WSBK race is a success.
The World Supersport class will contest one less race than World Superbikes, the class once again not appearing at the US round in Laguna Seca. WSBK joins the MotoAmerica round at the circuit, and with limited paddock space, a full schedule, and high travel and accommodation costs, it makes more sense to leave WSS at home.
The Superstock series will continue as support classes at selected WSBK rounds, as will the Pata and Honda-backed European Junior Cup. The Superstock 1000 class will race at 8 rounds, all in Europe, while the Superstock 600 class will have 8 races, spread over 7 rounds, the series doubling up at Aragon.
Testing for both WSBK and WSS will take place at Phillip Island before the opening round, the teams riding on 16th and 17th February, while the WSBK class will get two tests on the Mondays following the Portimao and Jerez rounds, on 8th June and 21st September respectively.
FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships
FIM Superstock 1000 cc Cup
2015 provisional calendar, 18 November
|22 February||Australia||Phillip Island GP Circuit||X||X|
|22 March||Thailand||Chang International Circuit||X||X|
|12 April||Spain||MotorLand Aragón||X||X||X||X**|
|19 April||The Netherlands||TT Circuit Assen||X||X||X||X|
|10 May||Italy||Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola||X||X||X||X|
|24 May||UK||Donington Park||X||X||X|
|07 June||Portugal||Autódromo Internacional do Algarve*||X||X||X||X|
|21 June||Italy||Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli||X||X||X||X|
|05 July||Russia||Moscow Raceway*||X||X|
|19 July||USA||Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca||X|
|02 August||Malaysia||Sepang International Circuit||X||X|
|20 September||Spain||Circuito de Jerez||X||X||X||X|
|04 October||France||Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours||X||X||X||X|
|18 October||Qatar||Losail International Circuit*||X||X|
* STC = Subject to contract
** Two races for the STK600 class
Though testing for the MotoGP class has finished, motorcycle racers in other series still have plenty of work ahead of them. Both the World Superbike series and the Grand Prix support classes have been hard at work, ahead of a busy schedule of testing. The Ducati and Kawasaki World Superbike teams have been testing at the Motorland Aragon circuit, while Moto2 and Moto3 are back at Valencia.
At Aragon, Jonathan Rea made his long-awaited debut on the Kawasaki ZX-10R, alongside 2013 World Champion and fierce rival Tom Sykes. With the World Superbike teams adapting to the new regulations, the two Kawasakis were a little slower than the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies. The day started off soaking, with journalists and test riders doing media laps on the 2014 bikes of Tom Sykes and David Salom. Once the track dried out in the afternoon, Kawasaki also joined the action. At the end of the day, both Ducati riders clocked up unofficial times of 1'51.3, while Sykes posted a 1'52.2 and Rea a 1'52.7. As an interesting note, they are running the track in its MotoGP configuration, using the long, sweeping double left hander as the final corner, rather than the longer version used by WSBK when the series races there, featuring the hairpin and then right and left combination leading back on to the front straight. Giugliano's best time is three seconds slower than the best time set by Andrea Dovizioso on the first day of practice for the MotoGP race at the circuit.
At Valencia, the Moto2 and Moto3 teams reassembled, taking over from the Spanish CEV championship, which held its final round of the season there on Sunday. They had returned there from Jerez, where they had held their first test of the season under difficult conditions, with rain falling on and off and the track never really drying out. That meant that Moto2 rookies Alex Marquez and Alex Rins made their debut in the class on a damp and difficult circuit, making their first steps in the class difficult.
The weather has been much kinder at Valencia, the teams all testing under clear skies and on a dry track. In the Moto2 class, Tito Rabat was the fastest man after the first day, to the surprise of absolutely nobody. Rabat was a tenth of a second quicker than Jonas Folger on the AGR Kalex, while Taka Nakagami showed some of the form from two years ago, grabbing the third spot, three tenths off the time of Rabat. Alex Rins was the faster of the two rookies setting the 14th fastest time, a tenth ahead of Alex Marquez, but over 1.5 seconds off the pace of Rabat.
In the Moto3 class, it was Karel Hanika who topped the timesheets, the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider perhaps benefiting from being one of the very few riders not to be switching bikes and teams. He finished ahead of Juanfran Guevara on the Spaniard's first run out on the Mahindra, though Guevara later crashed and injured his foot. Niccolo Antonelli set the third fastest time on the Ongetta Honda, finishing ahead of the Moto3 rookie Gabriel Rodrigo, riding for Aleix Espargaro's RBA team. Spanish CEV Moto3 champion Fabio Quartararo got his first ride on the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Moto3 Grand Prix bike, though no times were released for the Frenchman.
Below are press releases issued by some of the teams at the tests:
Rabat fastest on opening day at Valencia
Valencia, Spain – 17 November 2014: Tito Rabat was the fastest rider on track during the first of two days of testing at Valencia, where the weather was much improved compared to last week at Jerez.
The Team Estrella Galicia Marc VDS rider completed an extensive test program aboard the 2015 Kalex Moto2 bike, declaring himself impressed with the latest variant of the bike on which he won the Moto2 World Championship this year.
For Alex Marquez, the familiarisation process continued today at Valencia, with the reigning Moto3 World Champion making the most of the sunny and dry conditions to improve his feeling with the Kalex Moto2 machine. The 18-year-old Spaniard ended the day 13th on the timesheet, less than 1.5s off the time of his teammate, despite a small crash at turn five this afternoon.
Tito Rabat // 1st // 1’35.287
“The feeling was good today and I’m very happy with the 2015 Kalex Moto2 bike. We tested a lot of things like suspension, brakes and riding position, everything we need to test and evaluate to improve the bike ahead of next season. I’m pleased with the progress we made today and I hope we can continue improving in the same way tomorrow.
Alex Marquez // 13th // 1’36.772
“I’m really pleased with the improvement we’ve made today in the dry conditions. I feel really good with the bike and the team also. We’ve done some good work today and for tomorrow we need to keep this line, to continue improving step by step. I’m also happy with the lap time, so it’s been a good day overall, even if I did have my first small crash on a Moto2 bike this afternoon.”
Naoya Kaneko // Chief Mechanic // Alex Marquez
“Alex has done a good job today, with the gap to the frontrunners smaller than it was in Jerez last week. His consistency on the bike is also good, with only two or three-tenths difference in lap times. His crash today means he also understands more the different character of the Moto2 bike compared to a Moto3 machine, which is important. From our side we’re trying to understand him better and also what he needs to give him more confidence on the bike. I think we’re heading in the right direction, making improvements step by step, but still there is a lot of space to improve so we need to work hard together before the first race in Qatar.”
ENEA BASTIANINI GETS FIRST TASTE OF HONDA NSF250RW MACHINE AT VALENCIA
The 2015 campaign of the team Gresini Racing Moto3 has officially started today at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, where Eneas Bastianini was able to complete the first laps aboard the Honda NSF250RW machine that he will use the next year.
The 16-year-old rider from Rimini completed 53 laps with encouraging lap times, beginning to get to grips with the new bike and making the first changes to the set-up with the team.
Bastianini will return to action tomorrow for the second and final day of testing at the Ricardo Tormo circuit.
“I really enjoyed this first day of testing! The Honda is a completely different bike from the one I was used to ride, but today we could begin to get acquainted to it, doing the many kilometers and making a very good job. In particular, I immediately liked it the behaviour of the chassis; on this first day first we tried to find the feeling with the bike, then we have already started to make some changes to the set-up to adapt the bike to my needs. Tomorrow we will continue in this direction”.
SIMEON QUICKLY GET TO GRIPS WITH KALEX ON FIRST DAY OF VALENCIA TESTING
Just one week after the conclusion of the 2014 Moto2 World Championship 2014, the Team Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Team was back on track today at Valencia to take the first laps with the new Kalex which Xavier Siméon will ride in 2015.
A first contact in which the 25-year-old Belgian rider was able to complete no less than 69 laps of the Ricardo Tormo circuit, obtaining a good feeling and getting lap times already close to the ones set during the recent Grand Prix of Valencia.
The team will be back on track tomorrow for the second and final day of testing at Valencia.
“It was a very positive first day, in which we basically started to get comfortable with the bike: in the beginning we used a standard set-up recommended by Kalex, then we moved in different directions in order to evaluate the behaviour of the bike in relation to the changes. The first impressions are good: it’s a sensitive bike with sincere reactions and as a result we already did similar lap times to those marked during the last Grand Prix of 2014, where we have been very competitive. We can be satisfied: tomorrow we will try to do even many kilometers in order to deepen the knowledge of the Kalex machine and to gain further experience”.
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If you'd like to have desktop-sized versions of these photos, or more likely Scott's fantastic photos from this and other events, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. If you'd like a print of one of the shots you see on the site, then send Scott an email and he'll be happy to help.
The Grand Prix Commission meeting at Valencia tied up a number of loose ends in the 2015 regulations, most to do with safety, some to do with basic practicalities of racing.
The most significant changes are to the rule for jump starts and for exceeding track limits. Currently, the penalty for exceeding the track limit is a mandatory loss of position, but the races at Misano showed the impracticality of such a rule. Jonas Folger ran straight on at Turn 1, and had to drop back several seconds into the middle of a group battling for position. Race Direction now has the option of imposing other penalties based on their perception of advantage gained. The decision will allow the imposition of a time penalty, or any other penalty they wish.
The jump start procedure has also been changed, allowing a ride to move before the lights are out, and then stop again, and Race Direction once again decide whether they gained an advantage or not.
One change improving safety is forcing riders to wear helmets while riding the track on scooters. Given the speed which some riders reach on their familiarization laps, it is a much needed rule change. To save costs, riders will now also be allowed to rent dirt bikes or other machinery to use to get to know the track, rather than being forced to ship scooters around the world in team containers.
The press release from the FIM appears below.
FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on 8 November 2014 in Valencia, made the following decisions:
- Riders or other persons using scooters for track familiarisation must wear a crash helmet.
- Use of motorcycles from other disciplines, (motocross, enduro, supermoto, etc.) may be used for track familiarisation away from events without restriction.
- Teams in the Moto3 and Moto2 classes, testing on either of their designated circuits, may not use a contracted rider from another team in the same class.
- In a situation where a rider anticipates the start with a slight movement but then stops, and is stationary when the red light goes out, Race Direction will be the sole judge of whether an advantage has been gained and if a penalty will be imposed.
- When riders are adjudged to have exceeded the track limits during the race then Race Direction will decide what penalty is to be imposed. (Automatic drop of position is no longer the only possible penalty).
- When a group of riders are being lapped and the blue flag is displayed then there can be no changes of position within the group of riders until the rider lapping them has passed.
Moto3 and Moto2 Classes
- Moto3 class engines are allocated randomly during the season in three separate batches. To ensure that engines in the different batches, from the same manufacturer, are of identical specification, an engine will be selected at random from each distribution and used as a reference to check randomly selected engines from subsequent distributions.
- Permission has already been granted to Moto3 class teams to use their 2014 chassis in 2015 instead of buying new a chassis. However, to prevent any advantage by using higher specification components, not provided with the 2015 chassis packages, it was decided that any team taking this option may only use the standard front and rear suspension packages as supplied with the 2015 chassis.
- The temperature of fuel used in Moto3 and Moto2 class machines may not be artificially reduced. Fuel must be at the ambient temperature as defined by the Technical Director.
- Dell’Orto has been the exclusive supplier of ECU’s to the Moto3 class for the first three years of this class. Based on the good experience with the Dell’Orto hardware and knowledge gained by the Championship and teams on settings and data acquisition, it was decided to renew the contract with Dell’Orto for a further three years. This will also allow for continued use of existing product stock.
- The details of the procedure for technical control of MotoGP class engines were confirmed. MotoGP class engines may be required to be dismantled for checking by the Technical Director. However, the team may then rebuild that engine, using new parts, and the engine may then be used for the balance of its normal life, determined as 3,600 km.
The Indianapolis Grand Prix was awarded the title of Best Grand Prix of 2014.
A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on:
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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.”